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Mask, Nunivak Cup’ig

Mask, c. 1900-1930, Nunivak Cup’ig

Mask, c. 1900-1930, Nunivak Cup’ig (Yup’ik), Nunivak Island, Alaska, wood, pigment, and feathers, Transfer from Scarritt-Bennett College, 2011.27.95.

This mask was probably made for sale to the market, but demonstrates the Yup’ik tradition of mask-making. In this case, the mask comes from Nunivak Island off the coast of Alaska, where the Cup’ig sub-dialect of the Yup’ik language is spoken. Masks similar to this one are danced in ceremonies to ask that animals continue to feed the human community. The rings encircling the mask represent a “pretend universe” or ellanguaq where animal spirit beings dwell, while the seal and salmon on the mask denote the importance of those animals within the Cup’ig community.

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