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Mask of the Nulthamalth, or fool dancer

 

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

Gift of Mrs H.G. Beasley

AOA 1944.Am2.145

Room 26: North America

    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.

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

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    On display: Room 26: North America

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