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.


Mask 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. This has allowed the family to continue to display its privilege in ceremony. The mask was made during the period of potlatch prohibition (1884–1951) when their use in ceremony was still deemed illegal by federal legislation.

Cultural context


Physical description

Bumblebee mask has cedar bark cut, tied with white cord, folded around a folded orange-pink cloth and nailed to upper rim; white cord and red cloth are twined into the cedar bark lengths; at side on right folded white cloth, stitched with yellow thread, is nailed at temples; brown cord twined into first 7cm. of bark; slightly rounded white forehead has a black and yellow horizontal curvilinear design, red ovoid at centre of yellow; raised thick curved black brows; thin yellow line joins orbital areas at dip between forehead and large protruding bulbous snout; yellow round hollow protruding eyes with black and white bands around pupil; snout has black triangular shape at top and bottom joined by a narrow band, black outline; cluster of five holes, top hole on right has remains of 'stinger'; white, yellow and red crescentic designs around circular white hollow nostrils; white temple; defining line for cheeks melds with orbital ridge; curvilinear black line on cheek; square-like white line defines black split U on either side of mouth area; white and yellow bands around small pointed protruding red lip band, painted design converges at lower lip point; yellow triangle on upturned chin is outlined in white. On reverse, one brown cord passes through two holes in upper rim, looped and knotted through hole at each temple; second cord is looped and knotted through chin.