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Native American Zuni Mask

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Design, Ethnographic & Ancient Art

Native American Zuni Mask

The role of the clown in masked celebrations is to teach with humour

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Native American Zuni Mask

New Mexico

Circa 1900

The Sacred Clown mask is formed from hide which has been shaped, cut and sewn. The whole of the surface is covered with a pink coloured clay with the eyes and the lines forming an abstract nose picked out in soot; the mouth is a protruding red cyclinder and holes at the side through which the mask was attached to the head would also once have been further decorated with feathers.

Height 16 cm Width 20 cm ( 6.5 x 8 in )

This ancient people have lived close to the Zuni River in western New Mexico for 3 to 4 thousand years and continue to live a relatively isolated existence guided by age old traditions one of which is the appearance of the Sacred Clown or Koyemshi in ceremonial processions and dances. The masks are purposely grotesque and the role of the clown is to mock the other dancers and the seriousness of the occasion; in this way they are able teach with humour and slapstick comedy and get the basic moral and ethical messages across without the onlookers even realising.

Provenance:

Ex Private Collection

1805/3099

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