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Wooden mask of human face with long hair and facial painting: blue around eyes, red and black on cheeks and nose.
The mask has moveable eyelids. [MJD 24/08/2009]

Display History

Old label in masks case: 'British Columbia, Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Indians. Mask with moveable eyelids representing Saaga, the Devil doctor, with uncut hair and face painted for war.' [Laura Peers, 30/8/2005].
Mask redisplayed in NWC masks case, PRM, 2006 [Laura Peers, 07/04/2006].
Display label current at 11/2007 'CANADA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, HAIDA GWAII; HAIDA. Portrait mask. Collected by the Reverend Charles Harrison in the 1880s and said by him to represent a saaga (the Haida word for a shaman–healer). Purchased from Harrison in 1891; 1891.49.1 ' [MdeA 3/9/2007]

Publications History

Features in James Fenton's poem 'The Pitt Rivers Museum' [Laura Peers, 30/8/2005]
Reproduced in black and white as figure 3 on page 5 of 'Haida Art in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and the Rev. Charles Harrison', by June Bedford, in European Review of Native American Studies, Vol. XII, no. 2 (1998), pp. 1-10. Caption reads: 'Mask of Raven in human form.' NB This description of the mask is incorrect. [JC 16 4 1999; JC 15 5 2003]

Longer Description

Wooden mask of human face with long hair and facial painting: blue around eyes, red and black on cheeks and nose.
The mask has moveable eyelids. The painting on the cheeks is in a cross hatch design. The eyebrows are painted black. [MJD 24/08/2009] The mask is carved from one piece of wood, which by the colour, weight and indistinct grain pattern appears to be yellow cedar. The animal hair is bound into bundles with string before attaching through the mask with string in larger bundles. The textile eyelids no longer move but the strings are still attached to the rear of the mask and run down to exit the mask through two holes beneath the chin - one set for opening and one for closing. The coarseness of the hair suggests that it is horse hair. [HR 21/10/2005]

Research Notes

The following information comes from Haida delegates who worked with the museum's collection in September 2009 as part of the project “Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge”:
This mask was viewed alongside other masks on Thursday Sept 10, 2009. The mask was identified as a female. The hair was thought to be made from horse hair, and delegates observed it has been sewn on. Jaalen Edenshaw identified the wood as alder. The rigging is to enable the eyes to move. Delegates commented that traditionally, masks were carved quite thin and that this is not as common today. Billy Yovanovich thought this mask was carved by Simeon Stilthda who has a very distinctive style and paints abstract decorations on the faces of his masks. Christian White thought this mask was made for sale or trade. Discussion of this mask can be seen on Tape 3, time 31:00, which can be found in the Haida Project Related Documents File. [CAK 27/05/2010]

"Sgaaga" means 'shaman' in Haida. The mistranslation as 'devil doctor' is probably Harrison's missionary bias and is offensive to Haida people [Laura Peers, 07/04/2006].

Primary Documentation

Accession book entry: 1891. March 2. From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him. - Mask = Devil Doctor with long hair. £45. [Purchase price includes 1891.49.1-110]

Card Catalogue Entry - No additional information on catalogue cards. [JC 4 9 1996]

Written on object - Devil doctor mask. Haida. C. Harrison Coll. (MS. No.1) Purchased 1891. [DCF Court Team 14/4/2003]

Related Documents File - This mask is discussed on Tape 3, time 31:00 within The Haida Project Related Documents File which contains video of research sessions and interviews with Haida delegates from September 2009 as part of the project ‘Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge'. It also includes post-visit communications that discuss object provenance. For extensive photographic, video, and textual records documenting the Haida research visit as a whole, including but not limited to preparations of objects for handling, travel logistics, British Museum participation, transcribed notes from research sessions and associated public events held at PRM, see the Haida Project Digital Archive, stored with the Accessions Registers. Original hand-written notes taken during research sessions have been accessioned into the Manuscripts collection, in addition to select other materials. [CAK 02/06/2010]

Item History

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