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Mask of the Nulthamalth (fool dancer)
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Тhis mask was made by members of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation, who live on Vancouver Island and the surrounding mainland of the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is used during the potlatch, a ceremony in which wealth is demonstrated through the act of giving it away, which is an important element of Kwakwaka'wakw culture.

The Nulthamalth (fool dancer) is a character in the Kwakwaka'wakw Winter Ceremonial who enforces correct behaviour. These beings are said to have very large streaming noses and matted hair and, despite their role in the potlatch, they are thought to hate cleanliness and order. A slimy mucus substitute is spread around during the dance, and the performer afterwards pays for damage to the guests' clothing and possessions.

It has been suggested that this particular type of nineteenth-century mask may incorporate characteristics from a carved lion's head found on the figurehead or decoration of a European sailing ship.

Mask of the Nulthamalth (fool dancer)


Kwakwaka'wakw, from British Columbia, 19th century AD
Ht (without hair) 33.5 cm
Gift of Mrs H.G. Beasley



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