Inuit Masks

The Inuit people are Eskimos who live in the most northern part of America as well as Greenland and part of Siberia. They are distinct from the Native Americans and are, in fact, closer in race to Mongolians. Inuit means "The People," and they are primarily familial in group rather than national. They excel in their art, and, in particular their mask making, and spiritualism played a big part in their culture.

Inuit masks were used in ceremonies that honored or requested the presence of spirits. The objects that were painted on the masks were indicative of the spirit that the Inuit was trying to appeal to or the result that he was trying to achieve with his ceremony or dancing. Frequently they would paint the masks to look like the animals they killed to appease the spirits of those animals. This would guarantee more fruitful hunting the next time they went out.

Sometimes a group of masked performers would present themselves to tell a story of a hunting expedition or of a spiritual journey he underwent. The masks would transform the performers for the audience, but also would transform the masked individuals themselves. By hindering their sight, they were more able to transcend into the spiritual realm that is desirable during such a celebration or ceremony.

Inuit masks could be very extravagant or very simple. As stated previously, often they were painted to look like a particular animal to appease or appeal to that animal. Sometimes they are created to frighten off evil spirits. Sometimes a whole scene can be depicted on a mask. The masks can be fashioned from wood, animal hide, whale bone, or various other material and will contain glass for eyes, feathers, fur, and any other decorative item that the Inuit can use.

The beauty alone of these masks is remarkable, but what they stood for to the Inuit people make them even more significant. Their culture is built around the spirit world, and the masks are such an integral part of that culture with the dancing and performing, that you could definitely say that the masks are actually part of the Inuit culture. And those are a part of their culture that others are able to tangibly put their hands on and touch and see, and for that we are thankful.

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