Zahadolzha--Navaho. Frederic Duriez /

By Tom Dare

A SERIES fascinating colourised portraits showing members of the Navajo Native American tribe wearing their traditional facemasks have remerged this week, more than a century after they were first taken.

Images from the collection, taken between 1900 and 1915, show several men from the Navajo tribe donning the terrifying facemasks as they pose for pictures. The facemasks represent several different gods and deities from the Navajo culture.

Other stunning shots show a group of men dressed in the headgear as they perform a dance, while another sees a lone tribe member staring into the camera as he performs his own dance.

Colourised portraits of the Navajo Native American tribe wearing their traditional facemasks. Frederic Duriez /


The images featured were expertly colourised by French bank technician and colouriser Frédéric Duriez (53) from Angres.

“These portraits with these masks are fascinating,” he said.

“These people are mysterious behind their masks and seem to come out of a strange and mysterious story; from another world.

Yebichai war gods. Frederic Duriez /


“The colorised portraits were without relief and without souls. So I applied a light effect so that it would appear out of the shadows. This makes them exceptional I think.”

Originating in the Southwestern United States, the Navajo are the second-largest Native American tribe recognised by the U.S. government, after the Cherokee tribe.

Haschogan (House God) – The Yebichai Hunchback. Frederic Duriez /


As of 2015 over 300,000 people were enrolled tribal members, with over two thirds of the tribe’s population residing in Arizona and New Mexico.

Each of the masks being worn by the men in the pictures represents a different Navajo god, with each one representing a different aspect of life.

Haschebaad–Navaho. Frederic Duriez /


They include Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé, the creation god, Bikʼeh Hózhǫ́, the personification of speech, and Haashchʼéé Oołtʼohí, the god of the hunt.

Striking images like these are featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book, Retrographic on the colourisation of historical images.
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