Extensive Collection of Alutiiq Ceremonial Masks Comes to Anchorage
September 29, 2008
“Giinaquq (Like A Face): Sugpiaq Masks of the Kodiak Archipelago”
On view Oct. 12, 2008 through Jan. 4, 2009
In the winter of 1872 a young French anthropologist named Alphonse Pinart traveled the Kodiak archipelago by kayak, assembling one of the most extensive collections of Alutiiq ceremonial masks in the world. Masks from Pinart’s collection returned to Alaska last summer for the first time in 136 years to tell the Alutiiq story and inspire Alaskans to explore the rich culture of Kodiak’s Native people.
Giinaquq (Like A Face) features 34 wood masks and a bird-shaped feast bowl collected from villages on the Kodiak archipelago. The exhibition, six years in planning, highlights the cultural meaning of these historic carvings as well as their beauty.
“These masks have been viewed as art objects for many years; it’s time to illustrate their place in Alutiiq society,” said exhibition organizer and Alutiiq Museum Executive Director Sven Haakanson Jr. “We want people to understand that they are not just beautiful carvings, but part of an Alutiiq tradition of recording and sharing history.”
“During festivals, our people used masks to tell stories, to pass information about events and beliefs to others. Each mask had its own song, created by the carver to help tell its story.”
The exhibit includes songs associated with some of the masks. The songs were recorded by Pinart and recently retranslated by Alutiiq elders working with Haakanson and Jeff Leer, a University of Alaska linguist.
Pinart’s mask collection came to the United States for exhibition through a collaboration between Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum and Château Musée in Boulogne-sur-Mer, a municipal museum in northern France.
Haakanson and Anne-Claire Laronde, curator of the Château Musée, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, developed the exhibition. It is accompanied by a 96-page photographic guide, Two Journeys: A Companion to the Giinaquq - Like A Face Exhibition produced by Koniag Inc. and published by the Alutiiq Museum. The guide is available for purchase in the Anchorage Museum Shop.
Giinaquq opened at the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak last May. The Anchorage Museum showing of Giinaquq opens with a free reception 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12.
Giinaquq at the Anchorage Museum is sponsored, in part, by the following: BP, CIRI, ConocoPhillips Alaska, Koniag Inc. Pioneer Natural Resources Alaska, Spenard Builders Supply and Wells Fargo, and media sponsor, KNBA.