Object photography

Image © Dan Gair, 2008.
Image © Dan Gair, 2008.
Click image to enlarge +

Object description

  • Yup'ik artist
  • Finger mask, 19th century
  • Wood, pigment, reindeer hair
  • Cape Vancouver, Alaska, United States
  • H: 7 in, W: 8 3/4 in, D: 5/8 in (H: 17.8 cm, W: 22.2 cm, D: 1.6 cm)
  • Gift of Israel Albert Lee, 1910
  • E13112
  • Performing songs, stories and dances occurred during long winter ceremonial months
  • Each hand wore a matching finger mask; the mate is missing from this pair

During the wintertime, dances were enacted to reinforce systems of reciprocity between the community and the animals they depended on for survival. Finger masks portraying a face were typically used by women. The process of dancing a story is a physical expression of belief, tradition and continuity, and no Yu'pik dancer would do so bare-handed.