Tsegame, the Great Magician Mask

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This mask represents Tsegame, the Great Magician of the Red Cedar Bark, who was a supernatural being who had a rivalry with Kinekalak (the Transformer). They had a battle with their great powers, which included transforming into animals, and after many trials Kinekalak tied heavy stones to Tsegame’s feet and he descended to the bottom of the ocean to Lord Komokwa's domain, where he was given supernatural gifts. On his head is the frog and his mouth is the Kolus (Thunderbird), with the wings on his cheeks, which represents the powers that were given to him. Tsegame returns to the upper world and Kinekalak recognizes him as supernatural and his equal and they become friends. The eyes are American Indian head pennies (made of copper which traditionally represents wealth), buffalo head nickels and Canadian Loonies. Previously these coins were used countless times to buy and sell items that played a role in people’s lives, and now they are part of a mask - which is a transformation in itself.

Alder wood, Acrylic Paint, Canadian and American coins

17” x 12” x 10”


A traditional Northwest Coast Native artist for 30 years, Neel began his career as a professional photographer, but chose to become a Kwakiutl artist and follow in his family's footsteps. He apprenticed with master carvers Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick starting in 1987, when he returned from working for several years as a photographer in the USA. He has carved First Nations masks, totem poles, dug-out canoes and hand engraved gold and silver jewelry.

He comes from a family of traditional Kwakwak’awakw (Kwakiutl) artists, including: Dave Neel Senior, Ellen Neel, Mungo Martin and Charlie James. He has authored two books on Northwest Coast Native culture and was involved with the return of the dug-out canoe tradition in the 1990’s. His adult children, Edwin and Ellena, are carrying on the family tradition and also are Canadian Aboriginal artists.


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