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

Bee mask that 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 the upper rim; white string and red cloth are twined through the cedar bark lengths; dark purple-red cloth is nailed to upper rim beneath cedar bark, two seams with greyish material on either side, cloth appears to have been cut from an existing garment. Slightly rounded white forehead has black U in upper centre, black triangular-like form with red ovoid outlined in white at lower centre; curvilinear dark purple-red and red lines above curved black brows; yellow orbital areas are joined by a thin line in dip between forehead and bulbous protruding snout; circular hollow protruding white eyes outlined in black; snout has black centre and outline, yellow and white crescentic bands around red hollow nostrils, five holes in snout, three in the centre and one above each nostril, four have the remains of 'stingers'; curvilinear black lines emphasize cheek contours and narrow flat upturned chin; white and dark purple-red bands also emphasize chin. On reverse, string passed through two holes in upper rim, looped and knotted through a hole in each temple, black string is knotted to string from temples and to a piece of thick black rubber.