Kwakiutl Tribal Mask of the Pacific Northwest

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The Kwakiutl Indian tribe existed before the discovery of North America by the European culture and inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest of the United States and British Columbia in Canada. The tribe is rich in tradition and culture and has remained steadfast in their beliefs, history, teachings and artisan skills which have been passed down generation to generation. The artisans in the Kwakiutl tribe mastered the art of creating special ceremonial masks that are not only beautiful and aesthetically interesting to the eye, but also mechanically intriguing in which the masks serve a specific purpose to a theme during different ceremonies that are conducted by tribal specialists during certain times throughout the year.

Kwakiutl religious tradition is still used as a guide, which is apparent in present day life of the Kwakiutl people, still helping to make up the meaning of the Transformation mask. This tribes rich history tells of the belief that the only difference between birds, fish, animals and humans was the skin that covered the body. It was believed that they could transform at will and that animals could become humans and humans could transform into animals. The Kwakiutl masks are intricately created and well planned before the weaving and the carving begins. The masks are made from red cedar which is a soft wood and has a clear and even grain. The Kwakiutl artists used natural pigments to create the colors used on the masks and used this form of medium until the development of manufactured colored acrylic paint. Masks were used for virtually every occasion and therefore each mask was uniquely created to the theme of a specific ceremony. Ceremonies were not only a time to gather for fellowship, but also was a time...

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...e of the Kwakiutl rich culture which creates a hotbed for the talented Kwakiutl artist.

In conclusion the Kwakiutl tribe is steadfast in tradition and culture. The works of the Kwakiutl artists and the leaders of the religious ceremonies are most certainly working hand in hand carrying on traditions past on from earlier generations. The Kwakiutl artisans have mastered the art of making ceremonial masks and these masks will continue to play an intricate role in the lives and living of the villagers for years to come.

Works Cited

Boas, Franz. The Religion of the Kwakiutl Indians. New York: Columbia University Press. 1969.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages. 13th ed. California: Wadsworth. 2006.

Rohner, Ronald P., and Evelyn C. Rohner. The Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia. United States of America: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 1970.

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