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North Wind Mask (Negakfok)

Date:
early 20th century
Geography:
United States, Alaska
Culture:
Yup'ik
Medium:
Wood, paint, feathers
Dimensions:
H. 45 1/4 x W. 21 3/8 x D. 17 7/8 in. (114.9 x 54.3 x 45.4 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Costumes
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1961
Accession Number:
1978.412.76a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 356
The Yup'ik speakers of western Alaska share a common heritage with the Inuit peoples of northern Alaska and Canada. It is a heritage that has ancient roots in Siberia and includes permanent settlements on or near the seacoast. When this mask was made in the early 20th century, the subarctic region inhabited by the Yup'ik had abundant land and sea resources allowing for much time to be devoted to a full ceremonial life. After freezeup in the winter, performance cycles were undertaken that were important to maintaining proper human, animal, and spirit-world interactions. Among these ceremonies, were those where costumed dancers performed with masks that transformed them into spirits, both benevolent and malevolent, for the community. The mask here, one of a pair, represents "Negakfok," meaning the north wind or, more eloquently, the spirit that likes cold and stormy weather. Its white spots are said to represent snow flakes, and the many wood danglers clattered when moved giving a voice to the spirit of the north wind. One of a series of masks that includes representations of the south and east winds as well, the series is thought to refer to a particularly memorial weather event that took place in the early 1900s.
A. H. Twitchell, Napaskiak, AK, the early 1900s; Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York (9/3393), until 1944; [Julius Carlebach, New York, by 1945]; Dolores Vanetti Ehrenreich, New York, by 1945–1961; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1978

Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 634.



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