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.
Kwaxalanukwame’, John Drabble, Dzawada’enuxw (Kingcome Inlet)
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 34.0 cm x 10.0 cm
Mourning mask carved from red cedar and most of the face is left as natural wood. The eyebrows, eyelids, moustache and goatee are painted black. The mask is crudely carved and has eye sight holes carved through the irises. Red vertical streaking is painted on the forehead and traces of red paint are in both eyes. Blood is painted streaming down from the cheeks over the lips and down to the chin and jaw line. The lines of blood represent self-inflicted wounds from scratching and cutting showing grief and mourning. A red cedar bark tuft on top of the forehead indicates that this mask is part of a T´seka ceremony. There is a faded cotton cloth to conceal the dancer’s head.