hamsalagamł (Bumblebee Mask)

About this object

History of use

The Hamsalał dancers flit around the floor to a rapid drum beat, “stinging” people who are later paid with special gifts (the stingers are missing from this mask). The dance is an inherited privilege passed from one generation to the next within a family.


This mask has been danced on several occasions: a potlatch given by B. Taylor in 1948; a dance given by B. Taylor's mother, no date; finally, a potlatch given by George Speck, Patrick Taylor's uncle, in Alert Bay, May 1986. When they were offered for sale to the Museum, their purchase price included funds for a new set of masks to be commissioned from a contemporary Kwagu’ł artist, to allow the family to continue to display the privilege in ceremony. This set of masks (Nb3.1361-64) were made during the period of potlatch prohibition (1884–1951) when their use in ceremony was still deemed illegal by federal legislation. They were commissioned by their original Ma’amtagila Kwagu’ł owner, from the artist Willie Seaweed and his son, Joe.

Cultural context


Physical description

Bumblebee mask has cedar bark cut, tied with white cord, and nailed to upper rim; cedar bark lengths are folded around an orange-pink folded cloth nailed to upper rim; white cord and red cloth are twined into cedar bark lengths; grey cloth nailed to back upper rim beneath cedar bark, two narrow strips of dark purple-red cloth are sewn with black thread at sides, edge at side on right is stiff; black split U covers most of slightly rounded white forehead, two white square-like forms in either side of U; across forehead, dark purple-red line, varying in thickness and shape, seven diagonal lines over brows; brows protrude at bridge of bulbous snout and taper flat at temples; thin line joins small yellow orbital areas at dip between forehead and snout; circular hollow protruding white eyes are outlined in black; snout has central black band outlined in white, black, white and red crescentic bands around yellow nostrils with red interiors; five evenly spaced drilled holes at centre of snout have remains of 'stingers'; defining cheek line melds with orbital ridge; white temple and cheeks; black line emphasizes contours of cheek, jaw line and upturned rounded triangular-like chin; dark purple-red sickle-like shape on cheeks; red lip band has yellow outline. On reverse, two lengths of green cord, one passed through two holes in upper rim, looped and knotted at hole in each temple; second length is looped and knotted around first cord; white cord binds green cord from upper rim; light brown cord looped and knotted through hole in chin. Jagged check at upper edge of orbital area on right.