carved of cedar to depict Dzunuk’wa; traces of black graphite pigment and red paint detail hollowed cheeks, flared nose, and pursed lips; remnants of nails along brow ridge and on chin show where hair was placed; bowl has cavernous belly carved with hands along sides and bent knees.
length 36.5 in. x height 7.5 in. x width 14.5 in.
High ranking Kwakwaka’wakw families own ceremonial objects that symbolize supernatural encounters their ancestors had with mythological creatures from who they obtained privileges and wealth. One of the mythological creatures that figures prominently in the traditional narratives of Kwakwaka’wakw noble families is the fabulous Dzunuk’wa.
The Dzunuk’wa are beings who live deep in the forests of the central north Pacific coast. Most are portrayed as female with huge heads, pursed lips, eyes so deep set that she cannot see well and large pendulous breasts. When met the Dzunuk’wa is killed or if wounded, healed and her treasurers are either given to or taken by the families who have encountered her. These adventures of the families’ ancestors with the Dzunuk’wa were then memorialized in carved objects including house posts, ceremonial daggers, masks, feast ladles, and feast dishes.
This feast dish illustrates a style of carving which predates "classic" Kwakwaka’wakw sculpture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with its overall painted surfaces and northern-like two-dimensional design elements. The absence of overall painting and its deeply carved features connect this ceremonial feast dish to its ancient Old Wakashan sculptural roots.
-Courtesy of Alan L. Hoover, British Columbia