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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Mask of Ḱumugwe’ (Chief of the Sea)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Mask of Ḱumugwe’ (Chief of the Sea)

ca. 1880

Referred to by various names—Wealthy One, Copper Maker—Ḱumugwe’ is the strongest power in the sea, ruler over all beings, including fish, sea mammals, and any land beings that enter his domain, such as Sea Bear and Sea Raven. Ancestors of today’s Kwakwaka’wakw families sought him out to obtain wealth and supernatural powers, stories that continue to be dramatized in the potlatch by dancers wearing masks and singing special songs. Painted deep blue like the ocean, this humanoid face sports scallop shells around the edges and kelp blades on either side of the mouth, alluding to Ḱumugwe’s watery realm.
Alder, red cedar bark, cloth, paint
19 1/4 x 17 x 6 in. (48.9 x 43.18 x 15.24 cm)
Gift of John H. Hauberg
Provenance: Micheal R. Johnson, Seattle, Washington, until 1970; John H. Hauberg, Seattle, Washington, 1970-1991; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryLondon, England, Kansas City, Missouri, Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art, 1976-77.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Box of Daylight, Sept. 15, 1983 - Jan. 8, 1984.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Art Gallery, Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast, June 4, 1998 - May 15, 2000.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, Mar. 18 - May 30, 2022.
Published ReferencesIshikawa, Chiyo et al. Seattle Art Museum Downtown, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 2007, illus. p. 38

The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Native Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 1995, pg. 226

Holm, Bill, Box of Daylight: Northwest Coast Indian Art, Seattle Art Museum, University of Washington Press, 1983, no. 55, p. 46, illus.

Coe, Ralph T., Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1977, no. 252, p. 133, illus.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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