Mask of the Nulthamalth, or fool dancer

Kwakwaka'wakw, 19th century AD
From British Columbia, North America

The Nulthamalth, or fool dancer is an important figure in the Winter Ceremonial of the Kwakwaka'wakw who enforces correct behaviour. They are said to have very large runny noses, matted hair, and, despite their role in the potlatch, to hate cleanliness and order. A slimy mucus substitute is spread around during the dance, though the performer does pay for damage to guests' clothing and possessions.

It has been suggested by Bill Holm, the University of Washington, Seattle art historian, that this particular type of nineteenth-century mask may take characteristics from a carved lion's head, for example from the prow figurehead or other decorated feature of a sailing ship.

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More information


J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 33.500 cm (without hair)
Width: 25.000 cm
Depth: 19.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1944.Am2.145


Gift of Mrs H.G. Beasley


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