The Coastal Tlingit resides in Alaska rather than Canada but the influence spreads to the Tahtlan tribes in the south. Shaman masks are among the nicest work from this area. Potlatches celebrating the remembrance of dead ancestors were danced by men and women wearing human face masks bearing the crests of clans and relatives. Women's masks consisted of labrets which according to size represented the mark of rank among them. The plentiful masks of the Tlingit shaman represented the various levels of the spirit world such as sky spirits for the upper world, dead warriors, the sea or water spirits and the land spirits. The chiefs in the Tlingit tribes wore masks that portrayed their ancestors.
Tlingit masks as all masks of this region as well as African ones combined the aim of representing spirits and ancestors in ways that were recognizable to all ancestral members.
The Tlingit Tribe thinks that masks signify the similarity of a beast or the similarity of a human. A Tlingit mask is used to cover the entire face and sometimes for the purpose of concealing the identity of a tribal member. In addition, the Tlingit mask is only worn for a festivity or celebration in tribes.
Asymmetric Tlingit Shaman Masks
Asymmetric mask painting is a general feature of Tlingit shaman masks. Asymmetrical features, resembling closed or missing eyes, or twisted sockets, evoke historical reports of such people. The majority of Tlingit masks are humanlike in form, but this one is semi human, perchance representing a female salmon spirit. The significance of hair flowing from the eyes denotes a sense of mysteriousness.
Northwest Coast ceremonialism was founded on the religious belief in individual experiences between men and supernatural spirits or beings. Ceremonies included the intricate display, by individuals, by kin groups, or by secret societies, of the powers or privileges acquired through such supernatural experiences. Display privileges generally consisted of names, titles, crests (emblems) as well as songs, dances, costumes, ceremonial paraphernalia, ritual acts, and magical feats.
Much of the representative works of art in carving such as the Tlingit masks as well as other works of art had ceremonial purposes gaining its muse, inspiration and themes from the identical paranormal experiences.
More on this subject: Tlingit Masks
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