Artifacts

Kwakwaka’wakw transformation masks are worn by dancers to display their status during potlatch ceremonies, where they give gifts to attendees. When a cord on the mask is pulled, its inner form is revealed, often changing from an animal into a mythological creature or ancestor. Photo: Myrabella

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Indonesian Shadow Puppetry (Wayang Kulit) is one of the oldest storytelling traditions around the world. Oil lamps project the shadows of the intricately designed puppets on to cloth as the puppeteer narrates the story, often from a Hindu epic like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Images: 1-2 Tropenmuseum, Anggita Gloria, Rebecca Marshall.

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Pendants like these, carved from ivory or bone, represent characters in proverbs from Bwami, an educational system that taught the values of the Lega people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were owned by men and women of the highest ranks of Bwami, who were the intellectual, moral, and political elite. Source: National Museum of African Art, Late 18th Century

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Masks of the Opata people, indigenous to Mexico. These masks may have been used in the Opatan spring procession rite known as the fariseo, which still occurs during Easter week in most towns and villages in Opata Country. Source: Museum of the American Indian

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