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Mask

before1920
tree bark
Chile, Tierra del Fuego
Population:Yaghan
cat. AM3198/B

This simple mask, obtained from dried painted bark, does not differ much from the others used by the same population except for its less noticeable cone shape and for the colour that changed according to the mythological being represented. The white masks were worn to represent a perch, the spirit of the sea, in the wasenim-yaka dance and in the lepalus-yaka dance (small red fish). The Yaghan used this type of mask in the initiation rites during the Kina ceremony. According to the primordial myth of the Yaghan, the original supremacy of the women was followed by an inversion of roles, periodically sanctioned by the rite itself. During the rite, in which only men who had passed twice through the ciéxaus participated, masks were worn that represented the spirits, who threatened and frightened the women and the uninitiated. With the extinction of the population, the rare objects in the museum collections are the sole remaining attestation of this society. The mask, donated to the Pope in 1927, comes from the private museum of Santiago del Cile of father Martin Gusinde, one of the few anthropologists to have visited and documented the life of the last Yaghan.