Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Haida Tribe Masks / Bill Reid: The Raven and the First Men

Haida Masks - Ethnological Museum in Berlin

The Haida were one of many Northwest Coast Native American tribes that revered the Raven as a trickster and transformer. They believed that this particular bird set into motion the world as it was. Such examples of the Raven's deeds would be his releasing of the sun from a wooden chest, thus granting light to the world, and by opening a clam shell in order to coax the first men out so that he could play. To the Haida, the Raven became a common figure throughout all of their art forms. In the picture above, the Raven is shown in the form of masks, which were most likely worn in ceremonies in order to pay homage to it.

The Raven and the First Men by Bill Reid, 1980. Vancouver, British Columbia.

As with before, the story of the Raven coaxing the first men out of a clam shell in order to play is a powerful story of the Raven's deeds to shape the world. In this particular piece, Bill Reid portrays just that. Bill Reid is a contemporary Haida sculptor who still uses a style not unlike his ancestors did in ages past. His heritage is clearly important to him, and thus he shares the stories of those who came before him to modern audience.

Picture 1: from quinet's photostream

Picture 2: from goldberg's photostream

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