Monday, November 29, 2010

Some Masks Look-a-Like

This mask is similar to mine and it is also a Yup'ik Mask. It has the white spots, cone-shaped head, distorted face with a crescent shape on the face, feather sticking up on top of the head and two legs on the side made out of wood. Masks may look the same but can have two very different stories. The only problem is, most masks' stories are no longer known to us because they were made long ago and then either taken away or recycled back to the earth where it first came from. One could only wish to know the stories of these beautiful objects.

What Shamans?

In the past, there were two types of shamans, the good and the bad. The good were the healers, leaders, song makers, dance composers and were the ones to ask the spirits for the return of a good hunting season. The bad ones tried to steal the powers of other shamans and made peoples lives miserable by either making them ill or go crazy.
People wonder if there are still shamans still living today and the answer is yes. The problem is that there aren't as many shamans as there once was before the colonization period. They are still important to the Yup'ik culture, nonetheless. 

My Mask

Critical to the Yupik culture, the shaman’s masks were used in important events such as healing of the ill, winter festivals and connecting to the spirit world for various reasons. This shamans mask that I have chosen is from the mouth of the Yukon River, possibly near the village of Emmonak. The mask is from a community that possibly no longer exists and it is difficult to trace the origin of the mask nowadays because it was taken in the year 1878. Although, E. W. Nelson, who was in St. Michael at the time located north of the Yukon River, collected the shaman’s mask.Designed with a white, semi-human face, this mask has a mouth splattered with blood, wooden teeth, and two red attachments on each side. The right side contains two wooden legs, which are fastened with porcupine quills. This mask is a tuunraq, or an angalkuqs (shaman’s) helping spirit.  In more detail, a tuunraq can be called an ircenrraq, which is a powerful being in the form of a wolf, fox or a killer whale. The mask also looks like it can represent a crescent moon with the white dots representing the snow.

Personal Connection

I come from a Yupik village called Toksook Bay, located on the Nelson Island. It is one of the most recent made villages that were made, relocating from Nightmute to the new site in 1964. People still live in Nightmute but it is not as big and modernized as Toksook Bay. Being a new village doesn't mean the cultural knowledge is less than that of an older village, the cultural knowledge is rich and is growing daily in my home village. There are descendants of healers, or more famously known as shamans, still living in the village that we know of but never speak of for unknown reasons. I have heard stories of the shamans and what they did whether it was for good or bad intentions. It's interesting to hear of magical beings when your just a child, you hold that interest throughout your life, wanting to know more about it until your satisfied. That is why I chose a mask from the Yupik region, to learn more about it until I was sure that was all I wanted to know.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where is the Yup'ik Region located?

Of a total population of about 21,000 people, about 10,000 are speakers of the language. The Yup'ik region is the biggest in both size and speakers of the language with kids still speaking the Yup'ik language before English. The majority of the fluent speakers live near the Kuskokwim river (see below)

The town I lived in for the majority of my life is Bethel, right next to the red dot on the map.