Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sugpiaq Masks (Like A Face): Sugpiaq Masks of the Kodiak Archipelago

Today, Wednesday, Nov 19 10:00a
at Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK

These intriguing masks are returning to Alaska for the first time since they were taken to France in 1872. The exhibit features 34 wood masks, a bird-shaped feast bowl and recordings of related ceremonial songs.

Alphonse Pinart

Alphonse Pinart Born in northern France in 1852 Louis Alphonse Pinart was the son of a wealthy iron merchant. Pinart had a gift for linguistics. As a young man he studied Asian languages and anthropology and developed an interest in the ancestral relationships between Native American and Asian peoples.
Castle Museum, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Pinart was just 19 years old when he left the comforts of his academic life in France to journey to Alaska to study Native languages. During his thirteen month journey, he visited the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, and the coast of the Bering Sea traveling as far north as Nunivak Island. In the fall of 1871, he decided to visit Kodiak and paddled for two months reaching the archipelago by kayak in November.

Pinart's visit to the Kodiak region last six months. During his travels he stopped at communities through out the region and collected a wide variety of Alutiiq objects. Boat models, paddles, bows, arrows, headdresses, bowls, spoons, and masks are among the traditional items that Pinart obtained. He also recorded Alutiiq stories and songs.

In 1875, Pinart gave his Alaskan collections to the Châteu Musée, a regional museum in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, a coastal fishing community near his home. The collection, which includes about 300 objects, has remained in the museum's expert care since, miraculously surviving the destruction of two world wars. Today this collection documents important features of both French and Alutiiq history.