Merr’aq – Feast for the Dead

Alder, Pigments, Feathers, Beads, Diamond Dust

“There are two ideas at work in this mask. The first is based on a quote I read years ago that has stuck with me: “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” It was attributed only as an “Eskimo proverb,” and while I don’t know whether that’s true or not,  I like the idea of having our ancestors and relatives with us on a regular basis. Stars normally would be represented on the forehead of a Yup’ik mask as a blue background with white spots, but I chose to represent them using diamond dust applied to look like the Milky Way.

The Feast for the Dead was a ceremony held each year to honor and feast those who had passed on during the previous year. During the ceremony, women would use eagle feather wands to invite the spirits to return to the world of the living to be given food, water, and anything they would need during the coming year. The replica eagle feathers signify both those wands and my creating art as a way for me to connect with the spirits of my ancestors.”

-Jennifer Wood, 2018