Professional mourners were traditionally women and it is unusual that these four masks are male mourners. The red streaks might represent the scratching of the face to express grief or may be a symbol of their tears.
The Winter Ceremonial celebration was introduced by a solemn period of mourning songs to commemorate those who had died during the preceding year. During the ceremony, members of the deceased’s family would wear mourning masks and sing each person’s songs. Women were usually the professional mourners and were paid to lament the loss of a loved one. However, these masks, with mustaches and goatees, appear to be men. When the masks were returned to U’mista, the community elders decided that they were mourners because males, at times, do represent mourners. The red streaks represent self-abrasions to show feelings of grief or possibly they symbolize actual tears streaming down the face. These four mourning masks appear to be a set, although one is distinct enough to suggest that it was produced by another carver or by the same carver at a different time.
Wood, Cedar; Cloth, Cotton; Bark, Cedar; Paint; Metal, Nails
24.0 cm x 33.0 cm x 9.0 cm
Mourning mask carved from red cedar. Most of the face is unpainted wood. It has black painted eyebrows which join above the bridge of the nose. The eyes have black painted pupils and carved eyelid lines. A black painted moustache separates in the middle. It features red paint dripping down from the forehead, flowing past the eyes over the cheeks. The lips are red and also have blood running down in lines to the chin. A small tuft of dyed red cedar bark on top of the forehead indicates that this mask is part of a T´seka ceremony. A faded cotton cloth covers the back of mask.