Bee Mask – 1988

Alder, Pigment, Cedar Bark, Feathers, Twine, Cedar Pegs

On Insect Masks:

The mosquito, known as Scratcher, was one of the series of special characters who injected a comic interlude into the ceremony when they appeared. These clowns—Sneezer, Laugher, and so on—entered the dance house and exerted their power upon the house officials, causing them to scratch, sneeze, sleep or laugh. When the people laughed too merrily, the heralds became annoyed and threw the same spell onto them: then all laughed helplessly until finally the heralds relented, releasing people from the spell, and threw it back to the instigators, who then departed.

Bees and wasps had the same function, intended to be amusing in the dances: with sharp-pointed sticks in their muzzles they flitted about, stinging people by touching them with their sharp barbs. Those who were stung were paid for their “damage” by special gifts during the potlatch.

The bumblebee masks from Kingcome Inlet are a complete set that belonged to one family. It consisted of one large and eight smaller masks, which were worn by children. Their dance was a mimetic one, indicative of flight and hovering. Cotton cloth covered the head of the dancer.

The wasp was dressed in an overall costume covered with short feathers. Mosquitoes, gnats and midges were said to be the flying sparks of the fire that consumed Bakbakwalanooksiwae when the ancestral hero burnt him up.