Tintin, the subject of 200 million comics sold, was likely based on a real 15-year-old …

 

In the overcrowded world of fictional characters, there are few faces as adorable as Tintin’s. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, Tintin, the young investigative reporter, is not a household name in America, but he is definitely one of the most beloved figures in Europe.

With no specific magic powers, he is the antithesis of a superhero, but that didn’t prevent him from being widely admired by both children and adults. Charles de Gaulle once declared that Tintin is his only international rival, saying that “nobody notices, because of my height. We are both little fellows who won’t be got at by big fellows.”

Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, appeared for the first time on January 10, 1929, in the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siecle. What started as the subject of a supplement went on to become a symbol of the 20th century, appearing in an inde­pen­dent comic book, on television, and even on the big screen in Steven Spiel­berg’s animated movie The Adven­tures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

Tintin is one of the most beloved figures in the comic book world.Author: Joi/Flickr-CC By 2.0

Georges Prosper Remi, known by the pen name Hergé, is the man behind the creation of Tintin. With almost no formal training, Hergé began drawing the legendary comic-book character in 1929, but little did he know that by doing so he would give birth to an entire European comics publishing industry.

Tintin and his fox terrier Snowy appeared for the first time in 1929. Author: karrikas/Flickr CC By 2.0

Since 1929, Tintin comics have sold more than 200 million copies, and over the years, this beloved character served as an inspiration for many people and influenced the ways comic book readers perceive the world around them. But what actually inspired Hergé to create the iconic character?

Debate still exists on what exactly inspired Hergé to come up with the snub-nosed teenage reporter, but most people agree that it was a real life person known by the name Palle Huld. It is one of the most original of origin stories in the comic book world.

Less than a year before Tintin made his first appearance, in the children’s supplement of  Le Vingtième Siecle, a 15-year-old Danish Boy Scout named Palle Huld won a competition organized by a Danish newspaper to mark the centennial of Jules Verne.

 

Palle Huld, during his trip around the world in 1928, almost certainly influenced Hergé to create Tintin.

The winner of the competition would re-enact Phileas Fogg’s voyage from Verne’s famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Strangely enough, only teenage boys were allowed to take part in the competition, and the 15-year-old was the perfect match. There was another twist: The winner had to complete the journey within 46 days, without any company and without using planes.

Hundreds of Danish teenagers applied to participate in the competition, and Palle was lucky enough to be chosen. He started his journey on March 1, 1928, from Copenhagen and traveled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.

His journey made the headlines at the time and when he arrived in Denmark, he was already a celebrity. Over 20,000 admirers greeted their hero when he came back home.

The next thing he did was write a book about his journey, which was quite popular among his admirers, and published in several languages. That book also came into the hands of a Belgian cartoonist known by the name of Hergé and that same year, when Huld’s book was published, Tintin made his debut.

Huld himself suggested on several occasions that he was the inspiration for Tintin. However, others believe that the inspiration behind the character was actually the French travel photojournalist Robert Sexe, whose journeys were exactly in the same order as Tintin’s first three books.

With no specific superpowers, Tintin is the antithesis of a superhero. Author: Hicham Souilmi CC By 2.0

Nonetheless, true Tintin fans couldn’t care less. For them it is all about the character, a hero they all know and love, representing something that others don’t have: uncompromising vigilance and the need to succeed no matter what the cost.

Tintin proves that a hero doesn’t need to be big or strong, he or she just needs to be tenacious and stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.

By Goran Blazeski

Advertisements

ON THIS DAY:NOVEMBER 6

FEATURED EVENT

FEATURED BIOGRAPHY

James Naismith holding a ball and a peach basket, the first basketball equipment.
CANADIAN-AMERICAN ATHLETE AND EDUCATOR
BORN
November 6, 1861

Almonte, Canada

DIED
November 28, 1939 (aged 78)

LawrenceKansas

BORN ON THIS DAY

1970
Ethan Hawke

AMERICAN ACTOR, DIRECTOR, AND NOVELIST
1955
Maria Shriver

AMERICAN TELEVISION JOURNALIST
1948
Glenn Frey

AMERICAN MUSICIAN
1946
Sally Field

AMERICAN ACTRESS
1661
Charles II

KING OF SPAIN

MORE EVENTS 

The Cleveland Browns (left) in a game against the Carolina Panthers.
1996  Art Modell, the owner of the NFL‘s Cleveland Browns, announced that he was moving the team to Baltimore, which enraged sportswriters and Cleveland fans.
Ronald Reagan.
1984  U.S. President Ronald Reagan won reelection in a landslide victory over Democratic candidate Walter F. Mondale.
Vladimir Ilich Lenin addressing the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd, November 8 [October 26, Old Style], 1917.
1917   The second phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917 began (October 25, Old Style) as the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia.
Benjamin Harrison, photograph by George Prince, 1888.
1888  Benjamin Harrison of the Republican Party was elected U.S. president by an electoral majority despite losing the popular vote by more than 90,000 to his Democratic opponent, Grover Cleveland.
Walter Johnson.
1887   Professional baseball player Walter Johnson, who had perhaps the greatest fastball in the history of the game, was born in Humboldt, Kansas.
John Philip Sousa.
1854   American bandmaster John Philip Sousa, who composed 136 military marches, was born.
Charles II of Spain, detail of a portrait by Juan Carreño, c. 1685; in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
1661  Charles II, who ruled Spain from 1665 to 1700 and was the last monarch of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty, was born.

Gail Borden’s breakthrough, life-saving invention of condensed milk was inspired by watching Shakers boil fruit

Throughout the ages, humans have tried to invent ways to preserve food over long periods so that it can be stored and used in times or places where fresh food isn’t available. One such invention modernized the dairy-products industry and helped save thousands of children. In the middle of the 19th century, a New York-born amateur inventor called Gail Borden revolutionized the process of condensing milk, making this essential product safer and more available to people.

Before 1856, milk was only available fresh. This posed a huge problem on ships, for example, as during longer voyages, they had to carry herds of cows to produce the fresh milk needed for the passengers, especially small children. The cows, which are not sea animals, often got seasick and didn’t produce the milk that was needed for the journey. Borden was on one such journey and saw how children suffered due to lack of milk on board.

Gail Borden had done many different things in his life. He started as a land surveyor and participated in the making of the first topographical map of Texas. Then, without any previous experience, he started working as an editor for a fairly successful newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register. After this experience, he went into politics for a while, before devoting himself to the improvement of the food-preservation process.

Gail Borden

Borden’s first food-related invention was a meat biscuit, a dehydrated-beef-meat essence that was inspired by the traditional Native American dried meat called pemmican. Although not very economically successful (the biscuit was unpalatable), this product brought Borden a gold medal at the 1851 London World’s Fair. On his way back from the exhibition, on a ship from London to New York, he witnessed something terrible. The cows on board the ship got seasick and then died from an infectious disease. This was not all. The children who drank the infected milk also died. Borden was horrified and decided to try and do something about this issue and stop the suffering.

Patent RE2103 for Improvements in Condensing Milk

Back in New York he closed himself up in his Brooklyn basement “laboratory” and started working out a way to preserve milk. He first took a gallon of milk and tried boiling it in an open pan. He boiled all the excessive water until only a small amount of milk essence was left. The result was a dark and disgusting substance that tasted like scorched molasses. He tried to taste it, but it was terrible. This wasn’t working, and he needed a different approach.

One day, he went to visit a Shaker Colony. He saw something interesting: The Shakers were boiling fruits in order to dehydrate them, and they used a special vacuum pan for this. Borden thought that he could do the same with milk. All liquids boil at lower temperatures when they are in an atmosphere in which the pressure is reduced. This means that Borden could boil the milk in a vacuum pan without burning it and without destroying its taste.

In the vacuum pan, milk boiled at 136 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 212 in normal conditions. This way, the milk still tasted nice and kept its color, but more importantly, it could be kept drinkable over long periods of time. Although Borden didn’t know about the existence of bacteria in milk, he claimed that milk is a “living fluid.” Contemporary scientists also knew that something in the air made milk go sour after a while.

Advertisement for Gail Borden’s Eagle Brand Condensed Milk from an 1898 guidebook for travelers in the Klondike Gold Rush

Gail Borden kept improving and refining his model of an industrial vacuum pan for condensing milk, and after three years of hard work, in 1856, he got the patent. This time, he decided not to make the same mistake as with the meat biscuit. He was determined to make a profit, but in the beginning, things didn’t go too well. His first two factories for condensed milk weren’t very productive, and people weren’t used to the taste of condensed milk. His financial backers wanted to see money on the table and withdrew, and he was forced to close the factories. Borden’s luck turned when he met Jeremiah Milbank, who was a wealthy New Yorker in the railroad and banking business. He saw great potential in condensed milk and decided to invest in it. Milbank gave Borden more than $100,000, and together they opened the New York Condensed Milk Company.

Sales of condensed milk immediately went up, and Borden’s condensed milk factories started to pop up everywhere around the states of New York and Illinois. When the Civil War began in 1861, condensed milk found another customer: the Union Army. The Union generals bought hundreds of tins of condensed milk for their soldiers. In just a few years, Borden managed to completely change the milk products industry.

Condensed milk can from Borden Milk Products with Spanish-language lettering, from the second half of the 20th century. Author: Museo del Objeto CC BY3.0

Besides being successful at sales, Borden wanted his company to have the highest production standards of the time. Before he started making condensed milk, almost nobody considered the importance of sanitary conditions. Cow keepers didn’t care at all. Many of the cows were diseased, and milk was transported to the local buyers in the same carts in which they carried manure. Back in those days, there was no sanitary inspection. Borden started to do things differently. His company was proud of the safety and purity of their milk, and he intended to keep things that way. That is why Borden sent his own sanitary inspectors to all the cow farms that distributed milk to his factories. They needed to follow his instructions if they wanted to work with him.

Borden demanded several things from the farmers he worked with. His inspectors had a checklist called “the Dairyman’s Ten Commandments.” The temperature of the milk wasn’t supposed to be over 52 degrees; the udders of the cows had to be cleaned before milking; the milk cans should be cleaned before use; and many other strict rules. In the beginning, farmers were reluctant to accept his rules, but soon they saw the benefit and agreed to make their farms and milk better.

Condensed milk made the world a healthier place and saved thousands of children and men. Mothers began to feed their children with Borden’s product (Eagle brand condensed milk) and the children who grew up drinking it were nicknamed “Eagle Brand Babies.”  Not entirely aware of the significance of his work, Borden sterilized milk decades before the criticality of the pasteurization of milk was scientifically proved. Most of Borden’s sanitary standards are still in use today, which speaks tons about the remarkable work he did for humanity.

By Boban Docevski

Actor James Cromwell was motivated to become a full vegan and animal advocate after playing Farmer Hoggett in “Babe”

Getty Images
SHARE:

Trivialized by many as a pig movie for children, Chris Noonan’s Babe proved many people wrong and captured the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. The touching story of a cute talking piglet, who wants to become a sheepdog, hit theaters around the world in 1995 and almost instantly went beyond expectations to become a true smash hit, earning over $250 million over the years.

But profit is least important when talking about such story whose emotional warmth can’t be bought with any money in the world. Who would’ve thought that we can learn so much about humans by watching this tiny pink piglet? Its story and adventures profoundly changed the lives of many people who went vegetarian after watching the movie. But no other human being experienced bigger change than James Oliver Cromwell, who portrayed the character of Farmer Hoggett in Babe. The movie that was released more than 20 years ago earned Cromwell an Oscar nomination, but also made him an outspoken vegan and animal rights advocate.

The wider audience knows the legendary actor as “the guy from Babe” but he’s never been too concerned about this because he gave some quite outstanding performances in other iconic movies such as Star Trek: First Contact, The Green Mile, LA Confidential, The Artist, American Horror Story: Asylum.

Cromwell has always been interested in acting and started his career in theater, performing in Shakespearean and experimental plays. His first TV appearance came in 1974 in the Rockford Files and one year later he made his film debut in Neil Simon’s Murder by Death. He appeared in several other films and television series, but finally achieved critical acclaim and got Academy Award recognition for his role as the kindly Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe.

Adapted from Dick King-Smith’s book The Sheep-Pig, the movie takes place in Australia, and it is about a pig who wants to be a sheepdog. The movie is widely considered as one of the best family movies ever made and received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. Cromwell won an Oscar nomination for his masterful portrayal of Arthur Hoggett and, as mentioned above, it was this movie that made him an outspoken vegan and animal rights advocate.

Cromwell had been a vegetarian since the mid-1970s but became an ethical vegan in 1995 while filming Babe. In his interview with TakePart, the actor explains how he came to the decision:

I was doing a picture in Australia called ‘Babe,’ working with a lot of animals and animal trainers. I cared about their welfare and then, of course, you have lunch and it’s all there in front of you, and I thought, I should go the whole hog, so to speak. So I made that decision and kept that during the shooting. When I came back, I got involved with PETA, and of course, the film opened and it was very successful”.

The actor became involved with PETA’s campaign rescuing pigs from school 4-H programs, and he also appeared in a video that features a hidden-camera investigation at a pork supplier that he claims is used by Walmart.

As reported by the Guardian, in the video presented by animal rights group Mercy For Animals, Cromwell details a hidden-camera investigation which he says has uncovered “torture” at a pork supplier in Minnesota, used by America’s best-known retailer.

In February 2013, James Cromwell was arrested at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for protesting about a school study that the animal rights group PETA says involves “abusive experiments” of cats. He was arrested for the second time in 2015, while protesting against the construction of a power station in Wawayanda, New York, near his home in Warwick. Last year he was among 18 others arrested during a protest against an energy company near Seneca Lake.

Babe inspired Cromwell to take ethical actions for the rights and well-being of animals through his diet and activism.

“I decided that to be able to talk about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian,” he told the Vegetarian Times in 1998.

By Goran  Blazeski 

You Ought to Be in Pictures: 8 Filming Locations You Can Actually Visit

While many movie locations exist only on a studio backlot or as a collection of data on a hard drive, some of the most recognizable sites on the silver screen are only a hop, skip, and a transoceanic plane ride away.

Yavin 4

Temples of Tikal rising above the Petén forest, Tikal National Park, Guatemala.
© Simon Dannhauer/Fotolia

A rebel sentry monitors the approach of the Millennium Falcon, surveying the lush forest canopy of Yavin 4 as stone pyramids rise in the distance. The scene in Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope lasts only about 10 seconds, but the juxtaposition of a futuristic starship and pre-Columbian architecture provides one of the most enduring images in the film. Fans can re-create the scene (minus to the YT-1000 light freighter) by visiting Tikal, the ruins of one of the main urban centers of the Maya civilization. The UNESCO World Heritage site is located in the Petén region of northern Guatemala.


Mars (The Martian)

Eroded landscape at Wadi Rum, Jordan, northwestern Arabian Desert.
© CJPhoto/Fotolia

When searching for a location to stand in for the surface of another world, a site colloquially known as the Valley of the Moon is a good place to start. The Wadi Rum Protected Area in far southern Jordan served as the backdrop for Matt Damon’s 18-month sojourn on the red planet in The Martian. The imposing landscape was described as “vast and echoing and God-like” by T.E. Lawrence, and Wadi Rum was utilized as the main theater of operations for Lawrence’s guerrilla campaign during World War I.


Camelot (and just about every other castle in the Holy Grail)

Doune Castle, Doune (historic county of Perthshire), Scotland.
© Heartland Arts/Fotolia

Gather your coconuts and prepare to calculate the airspeed of an unladen swallow, because it’s possible to reenact pretty much every castle scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in one location. From the “Knights of the Round Table” musical number to the French Taunter to the wedding at Swamp Castle to the tempting of Galahad at Castle Anthrax—virtually all of it was filmed at Doune Castle in central Scotland (the notable exception is the Castle of Aaargh exterior scene, which was shot at Castle Stalker in western Scotland). From 1388 to 1420 the castle served as the de facto royal seat for “Scotland’s uncrowned king,” Robert Stewart, 1st duke of Albany, but in the 21st century it was better known for its association with the Holy Grailand the screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s racy time-travel romance series Outlander.


Jurassic Park

Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe, Hawaii.
© norinori303/Fotolia

The Hawaiian islands were the locations for some of Jurassic Park’s most memorable scenes. Kauai provides the jagged coastline and some of the most breathtaking topography of the fictional Isla Nublar, while the rolling hills of Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch function as the backdrop for the Gallimimus stampede. Filmmakers would revisit Kualoa for Jurassic World, where it would appear as the Gyrosphere exhibit (fans of the TV show Lost might recognize the site as Hurley’s golf course).


King’s Landing

Dubrovnik, Croatia.
© LianeM/Fotolia

The HBO series Game of Thrones brings to life the many locations of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world, but the clash of sex, swords, and subterfuge reaches its peak in the capital of King’s Landing. The “real” capital of Westeros can be found in DubrovnikCroatia. The city’s 16th-century fortress walls overlook Blackwater Bay (the Adriatic Sea), while the parks, avenues, and alleys of the old city have witnessed the triumphs and tragedies of House Lannister.


Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England.
© Katyenka/Dreamstime.com

For six seasons, viewers around the world were transfixed by the Crawley family and its servants, suitors, and scandals. Perhaps the most consistently fascinating (and least infuriating) “character” in Julian Fellowes’s period drama, however, was Downton Abbey itself. The “real” Downton is Highclere Castle, the ancestral home of the earls of Carnarvon (the most famous of whom had a rather significant role in the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun). George and Fiona Herbert, the 8th earl and countess of Carnarvon, welcome visitors to tour the castle and its grounds (guests are advised to take special note of the parks, lawns, and gardens, which were designed by legendary landscape architect Capability Brown).


Hobbiton

Set used for the film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).
© Steven Prorak /Dreamstime.com

Unlike the other locations in this list, the Shire is a wholly artificial set, built on 12 acres of the Alexander family’s sheep farm outside Matamata on New Zealand’s North Island. But what a set it is. Created for Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ringstrilogy, the original incarnation of Hobbiton began to draw curious fans shortly after the release of the first film in the series. Over time, tours became more formalized, and when Jackson returned to the Alexander farm to shoot The Hobbit in 2011, Hobbiton was rebuilt in a more permanent fashion. What began as a temporary location designed to host a three-month movie shoot has evolved into a Tolkienesque theme park, with 44 unique Hobbit holes, a café, a Middle Earth-themed pub, and a gift shop. More than 350,000 people visit the Hobbiton Movie Set annually, making it one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions.


Luke Skywalker’s Home

Set of the Lars homestead from Star Wars (1977).
© Natalya Sidorova/Dreamstime.com

In an early scene in Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, Luke Skywalker memorably says of his home world of Tatooine, “If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” And to be fair, the town of Matmata, Tunisia, is a bit off the beaten track. Located some 230 miles (370 km) south of Tunis and 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Gabès, the closest large city, the small Berber community is the site of the Hotel Sidi Driss, also known as “the Star Wars hotel.” The traditional Berber “troglodyte” underground cave dwelling was used as the primary filming location for Owen and Beru Lars’s homestead, and although the site suffered the ravages of time after primary filming concluded in the mid-1970s, a French fan partially restored some of the frescoes in the 1990s, and the set was fully rebuilt for Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002). For just 25 dinars (roughly $11), visitors can sleep and eat breakfast in Luke Skywalker’s childhood home (blue milk not included).

WRITTEN BY: Michael Ray

Beautifully carved masks embody the spirits honored by the Yup’ik shamans

 

 Archaeologists believe that the ancestors of the Yup’ik people originated in Siberia, from where they slowly migrated, settling about 3,000 years ago along the Western Alaskan coastal regions and in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River valleys. Today they number some 25,700, with approximately 24,000 living in the United States (mainly in Alaska) and a further 1,700 living in Siberia.

The name Yup’ik (the plural is Yupiit) is a combination of the word Yuk, for “person” and Pik,meaning “real.” The language, known as Yuk or Yuiit, (some dialects use Cup’ik which refers to both the people and the language) is still spoken by about 75 percent of today’s Yupiit.

Dance mask of tunghat, Southwest Alaska Eskimo, acquired 1915.

 

Wooden Tuunraq mask. The main motif is the Morse (walrus) head with Eskimo figures on it. 1905, Qissunaq, Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

The Yup’ík people, being semi-nomadic, traditionally followed the seasons, moving in family groups. In the spring, they would travel to their fishing camps where they fished, hunted sea mammals (seals, walrus and–until fairly recently–whales), and collected berries and plants. As the seasons progressed and the weather became untenable, they returned to the village sites and settled down for the duration of the harsh winter. The women lived together in the ena, situated close to the qasgiq, which is the traditional communal house in which the men lived. The qasgiq also served as the center for teaching the young boys survival, hunting, and life skills, and where some of these skills were taught to the girls.

Wooden mask with the seal spirit in the middle, fish in the circle, and the hands are attached to the front and back with tendons, Hooper Bay, Alaska, 1930s

Probably the most important feature of the qasgiq, however, was that it was used as the community center for ceremonies and festivals where singing, dancing, and storytelling took place. It was here that the Yupiit learned and practiced their culture. This building was where the use of masks became a vital, integral part of their belief system.  This idea centered on the acceptance of good and evil spirits, and the assurance that all living creatures experience the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Stuttgart, Linden-Museum ceremonial mask (possibly a shaman) of carved wood, around 1910, Inv. No. M 31,739th

Various ceremonies emphasized the different aspects of the relationship between humans, the animals, and the spirit world. The Shaman, an important person in this belief system, was seen as the mediator between the people and the spiritual world. He was there to invoke, through visions, various spirits that would give him guidance. He was also the person who exorcised evil spirits that caused illnesses; the Shaman was responsible for summoning friendly spirits to intervene when evil spirits caused bad occurrences. For all these ceremonies, he used specific masks to enable him to execute his duties correctly.

Wooden mask, fur, feather, leaf and stalks, 57 cm, Kuskokwim Bay, 1930s

The Shaman wore a mask during many traditional rituals in which the relationships that occur between a man and his ancestors, or a man and the animals he relies on for food (life), were re-enforced. Using dances and storytelling, the Shaman, wearing his mask, would represent his own spiritual helpers. During his visit to the spiritual world, these helpers would inform him on the wishes of the game animals, and encourage the animal spirits to return in spring so that they may give their bodies to the hunters. The mask would usually be in the form of a chosen animal–the most popular being wolves, seals, sea birds, or even mythical creatures. Some masks would sport large or goggley eyes, which represented the enhanced spiritual state and vision which the wearer had reached.

All the people were involved in the making of masks, usually under the guidance of the Shaman, for the masks used in the ritual dances were aimed at pleasing the spirits. It is not possible to allocate a meaning to each mask, for often the storyteller would fashion a mask to be used for the enactment of a particular myth or traditional story in which animals or mythical beings took the form of humans. Many of the stories told were of an informative or an instructional nature and dealt with tribal, moral, and ethical mores. Sometimes the story related by the storyteller was of his personal experiences or adventures, and then the mask became a representation of his own beliefs.

It is painted in three colors (red, blue-green, white), with a wooden ring, a seal with a fish in the mouth, a hole with a big thumb as a jewel attached to the body, and feathers. Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, late 19th century.

Use was made of skilled woodworkers to carve these very interesting, unusual, and often complex masks. They utilized materials readily available to them; wood was the most popularly used medium, but much use was also made of hides (leather), bones, and feathers. Some of these masks even had movable parts. The masks were usually carved, then decorated and painted. Those created from leather or hides were stitched or lashed together and also decorated with items such as stones, feathers, beads, or teeth. They were often painted with red ocher to a shade that would make them look similar to human skin.

Some very small masks were called finger masks and were often carved from bone or tusks. These would be made for wearing on the hands and were used in group dancing. The dancers remained in one position and moved only the upper body and arms in gentle, graceful movements that were accentuated by the finger masks. Masks used in the winter ceremonies were often so large that they required a number of people to hold them up. Some were so massive – to support a variety of theatrical devices – that they had to be hung from the roof.

Alaska Mask Bad spirit of the mountain DMA 1982-81

The masks formed part of the belief in a complicated spiritual life that honored those beings that made life livable for the Yupiit in their harsh homeland. Masks were an important feature in many ceremonies since they, in effect, would “illustrate” the story. Those used by Shamans to facilitate communication between the worlds of human beings, animals, and spirits, were said to have made the unseen spirit world visible. Most of the masks were discarded after use, and that fact, together with normal deterioration of the materials used, means that there are few original Yup’ik masks left today.

While we all know that times move on, it is sad that many of the old traditions have slowly become lost–and so it was with the Yupiit rituals of singing, dancing, and storytelling using these fascinating masks. The skills of mask-making have largely fallen away too. Fortunately, a small number of original Yup’ik masks found their way into collections, and many are on display in museums.

Contemporary stylized ivory single-color mask, ringed with ivory sculpted as a jewel in the circle, on the left with human eyes, musk cattle on the right.

The positive reaction to the public display of these beautiful masks has generated further interest in them as well as in the traditional ceremonies for which they were used. This has resulted in many of the masks being returned to their original homes. Some of the elders still remember many of the stories and dances associated with certain masks, and interest has been renewed in traditional mask-making. Many of these elders still recall that the wearing of masks seemed to engender a spiritual power that breathed life into the stories of the performers and was a way of “making prayer”.

Today, many of the younger Yup’ik people are, for the first time, being made aware of these artistic masks as pieces of their heritage. They have become interested in learning more about the historical traditions of singing and dancing and telling stories – all of which are beginning to have great meaning for them. We may yet see the Yup’ik youth “Making Prayer” once more.

By  Ian Harvey