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Eskimo Kayak with Masked Figure & Accoutrements
Norton Sound Eskimo
Date: 19th century
Length: 27 inches (kayak)
Provenance: collected in 1900-1901 by an English minister (W.G. Harding) who served as a missionary in Alaska
An outstanding kayak (qayaq) fully equipped with finely crafted zoomorphic harpoons, carved atatl, wood seal float, etc. The figure is equally amazing: in place of a naturalistic carved face, a Yup'ik mask is worn by the hunter. Masks would normally not have been worn during the hunt. The carver must have felt the mask-faced figure made the kayak more salable or the entire piece was conceived as part of a spiritual vision by the maker. A model created by the same hand is in the Smithsonian Institution's collection but lacks the hunter. Reference: Inua, Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo, William Fitzhugh and Susan Kaplan (page 66, figure 36).