Accepted paper:

Carving, mending, searching for self: contemporary mask masking in Southwest Alaska

Authors:

Anna Mossolova (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper, I will share some findings from my fieldwork conducted in Alaska, where I was working with Alaska Native mask-makers. I shall speculate on several crucial concepts that emerge when talking about contemporary mask making: authenticity, replication, cultural identity, and self-expression.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws on my on-going research on the dynamics in the traditions of mask making amongst the Yup'ik people of southwest Alaska: starting from the pre-contact period, continuing through the contact time, and concluding with the modern era. In my presentation, I will share some findings from my fieldwork conducted in 2016 in Alaska, where I was working with Alaska Native mask-makers and artists from both rural and urban areas. While talking and carving with them, I was learning about modern tools and materials being used in mask making nowadays, but also witnessing how mask making was becoming a space for material encounters between past and present, tradition and innovation, community and self. In the communities where mask masking has been banished for several generations, what does it mean today to be a mask carver? Brining examples from the field, I shall speculate on several crucial concepts that repeatedly emerge when talking about contemporary mask making, such as: authenticity, replication, cultural identity, and self-expression. I will conclude looking at mask making as a search for lost roots, as a healing and identity mending practice.

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