Mask of a raven's head with strips of fur attached. [HR 27/10/2005]
Place details: N AMERICA. Canada / British Columbia Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) NW Coast. Cultural Group: NW Coast Haida Local Name: niijang ('mask' Skidegate), níijaangw (Kaigani) Materials: Wood Plant / Pigment / Animal Fur Skin / ?. Processes: Carved / Painted / ?. Colour: Black Dimensions: Max L = 380 mm Field Collector: Charles Harrison When Collected: Between 1882 and 1890 ? PRM Source: Charles Harrison Acquired: Purchased 2 3 1891 Other Numbers: 8
KEYWORD: Mask / Ceremonial Object / Dance Accessory / CLASS: Mask / Ceremonial / Dance / ?.
Object description: Mask of a raven's head with strips of fur attached. The raven's head is carved from one piece of wood, which has largely been stained black on the outer surfaces. The eyes are not stained or pigmented but contain the remains of wooden pegs that appear to have held a separate eye cover that is now lost. A long strip of fur covered skin is attached to the rear of the mask through holes in the wood. The remains of wooden pegs and resinous adhesive on the top of the head suggest the loss of a fur/hair/skin addition. There are the faint remains of a white pigment in the facial carvings. [HR 27/10/2005]
Publications history, trails & websites: Reproduced in colour on page 186 of the exhibition catalogue 'From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia' edited by Sarah Milroy and Ian Dejardin, published 2014 by Art Gallery Ontario and Dulwich Picture Gallery. With the caption 'Raven Mask, Haida, 19th century. Wood pigment, animal skin and fur'. [FB 29/10/2014]
Illustrated in black and white as figure 3.3 on page 99 of 'This is our life: Haida material heritage and changing museum practice' by Cara Krmpotich and Laura Peers, UBC Press 2013 with the caption 'Jaalen Edenshaw posing with Raven mask at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Photograph by Natalie Fournier' [FB 07/01/2014]
Discussed by Charles Harrison on p. 87 of his Ancient Warriors of the North Pacific (London: H.F. and G. Witherby, 1925): ‘Another mask was that of a raven's head with an attachment of marten skin; it was used by the Shaman of the village upon the occasion of the ceremonial dance organized by the raven clan; this mask was at least one hundred and sixty years old.’ [JC 15 5 2003]
Research notes: NB This mask is not discussed by June Bedford in her 'Haida Art in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and the Rev. Charles Harrison', in European Review of Native American Studies, Vol. XII, no. 2 (1998), pp. 1-10. [JC 15 5 2003] She may have confused this mask with the documented Edenshaw transformation mask, 1891.49.8 [Laura Peers, 30/8/2005]
Strings of animal skin and fur (marten?) are attached. [JC 15 5 2003]
The following information comes from Haida delegates who worked with the museum’s collection in September 2009 as part of the project “Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge”:
This mask was viewed alongside other masks on Thursday Sept 10, 2009. Delegates thought that this mask would have had fur on the top, and likely seal fur, possibly ermine or beaver. When mimicking how the mask would be worn, Jaalen Edenshaw held it up at his forehead, not over his face. Delegates commented that this mask weighed very little and that it had been hollowed out nicely. They thought such a feature made it easier for the dancer. They explained that today masks are not so light, partly because they are often carved primarily to be sold rather than danced. Video of delegates discussing this mask and the practice of conversing with ravens can be viewed on Tape 4, time 9:00 and time 23:25, which can be found in the Haida Project Related Documents File. [CAK 27/05/2010]
Harrison MS in PRM Manuscripts and Photographs dept, p22, described a mask in the form of a raven's head tied to the shaman's head by strips of marten skin, which may be this mask. Harrison notes: 'I had one such mask given to me by chief Edinso [Edinshaw?], who stated that it was formerly worn by his father's great great uncle who was a most remarkable doctor. Edinso is about ninety years old, so perhaps the Raven's head I received was over 200 years old.' [research by Barbara Bartl, PRM intern, 2003]
Members of the Haida Nation consulted in December 2005 confirmed that this mask was Haida, and noted that its overall dark colour was unusual [Laura Peers, 10/04/2006].