I wrote yesterday about the masks in France and their potential return to Alaska. My Grandmother told me a story once about a huge piece of mastodon ivory our family had in Bethel.
A man from the lower 48 had his eye on it for some museum. But what the man did was terrible, he got one of my Grandma's Uncle's drunk and bought the piece for some whiskey. This is not the first story I have heard about how priceless art pieces have found their way into museums or collections.
It is up to this generation to seek the pieces of the past and bring them home. I believe like my mom, and ancestors that the masks carry a spirit. That spirit is now separated from it's origin.....split from itself. Sometimes I think that there is a growing split in my own culture with the Yup'ik language dying out and not being used anymore, our subsistence way of life under constant attack and urban sprawl coming to our villages.
I have heard about this half Yup'ik man who lives in New York or somewhere back east who carves masks copying them from the Smithsonian. Is that really our culture? How different is that from the Chinese copying our artwork and selling it. There is a difference - the culture, the stories, the meanings are not there anymore. That man copying his ancestors did not learn his craft from an elder, does not know the stories behind the masks he is a fraud but his artwork sells and is in many galleries. He is exploiting the Yup'ik culture like many collectors have for centuries.