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Gallery of Masks Depicting Cannibal Woman


updated 06/25/2017
Dzoonokwa Mask, Burke Museum.Dzoonokwa Mask, Burke Museum.Dzoonokwa Mask, Burke Museum.Dzoonokwa Mask, Burke Museum.

  1. This Dzoonokwa (Cannibal Woman) Mask, housed at the Burke Museum, was created by the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) artist George Walkus, probably in the 1920's. Walkus was one of four carvers who revived Kwakiutl carving after it had gone dormant in the early 1900's. The revival that Walkus helped to lead is more than a living embodiment of religious and social expression. It produces material for an international fine arts market, and this has encouraged stylistic innovation, as can be seen below.

The 19th century masks are darker and more intense. You will notice that many of the masks, ancient and modern, do not have eye holes. This is because the Dzoonokwa dancer is expected to dance blindly in a trance, the complete captive of his attendant Hamatsa dancers.

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DZOONOKWA MASK, BRITISH MUSEUM.
 

EARLY DZOONOKWA MASKS

  2. Kwakiutl Dzoonokwa Mask, British Museum, 19th Century. Unlike the revival mask, above, here the eye-slits are elongated, not round, and the mouth is a deeper tube. The eyes are covered from the inside with hair, so the dancer is blind. The Hamatsa dancers surround him closely and the rhythm of their singing guides his feet.

Although Dzoonokwa is a woman, her features are very masculine. Admission to the Hamatsa Society is limited to men, so it is men that appear as Cannibal Woman in the Winter Ceremonies (Tsetsequ or Tseka) and at Potlatches. The word "Tsetsequ" implies imitation, double meanings, trickery, deceit, hidden meanings, and deep things obscured by surface appearances. Cannibal Woman embodies this idea and is the most important figure in the Winter Ceremonies.

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DZOONOKWA MASK, BRITISH MUSEUM
 

  3. Kwakiutl Dzoonkwa Mask, British Museum, 19th Century.

This is the style of mask that George Walkus was emulating in the 1920's. George's mask is brighter, lighter and set the stage for the development of modern Dzoonokwa rep- resentations by carvers from the Kwakiutl and other Northwest Coast First Nations.

This mask is darker and more serious. Notice that the eyes are open. This is most probably a chief's Dzoonokwa mask, carried out by the chief at the end of potlatch, when he places it on his own head, calls forth the spirit of Cannibal Woman, and solemnizes the event, granting power and wealth to himself and his lineage.

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CHIEF'S 'DUNUNKWA' MASK, KWAKIUTL
 

  4. Chief's 'Dzunukwa' mask, late 19th or early 20th century, U'mista Cultural Centre. This is the mask of the Mamalilikala, a division of the Kwakiutl. It was confiscated by the Canadian government from Chief Amos Dawson during the potlatch trials in 1922.

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CHIEF'S 'DZUNUNKWA' MASK, KWAKIUTL
 

  5. This staged picture was taken among the Kwakiutl by Edward S. Curtis in 1914. It shows a chief's Dzoonokwa mask as it might look with a person wearing it.

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Dzonokwa Mask collected by Boas
 

  6. This "Dzonokwa" mask was presented to the Museum fur Kulturkunda in Berlin by Baos in 1897.

This is the second style of Cannibal Woman mask that is meant to be worn in the winter dances. The eyes of abalone are sunk in black-ringed wells and the hollows of the cheeks are more pronounced. The face, itself is unpainted. It is the need and anguish of Cannibal Woman that dominates this representation.

The Cannibal Woman dance could last for as long as five days, each day with an appropriate mask and set of attendants.

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Dzunukwa Mask by Stan C Hunt.
 

REVIVAL MASKS OF CANNIBAL WOMAN

 

The masks pictured below can be considered "revival" masks in the sense that they belong to an artistic tradition that grows out of the cultural revival that began in the 1920's.

 

  9. "Dzunukwa" (Cannibal Woman) Mask by Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) artist, Stan C Hunt. Modern.

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KWAKIUTL DZOONOKWA MASK, CA. 1970
 

  10. Kwakiutl Dzoonokwa Mask, ca. 1970, attributed to Alex Lelooska (1933-1996).

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KWAKIUTL DZOONOKWA MASK, IRA ETZERZA.
 

  10. Kwakiutl Dzoonokwa Mask, Ira Etzerza, modern.

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Domed tortoise toe (?) bead from the Jarigole Pillar site.
 

  12. Kwakiutl, Dzoonokwa mask by Tom Hunt, ca. 1990.

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Kwakiutl, Dzoonokwa by Ellen Neel, 1960.
 

  13. Kwakiutl, Dzoonokwa mask by Ellen Neel, 1960.

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