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The U'mista Collections

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Dzunukwa Mask

Dzunukwa Mask
Dzunukwa "Giant of the Woods"

Dzunukwamł "Giant of the Woods Mask"

The Dzunuk̕wa "Giant of the Woods" is the large family of giants that live at their homes in the far away mountains and forests. Although they can be male or female, in most legends she is female. Black in color, with bushy, unkempt hair and a pursed mouth through which she utters the cry, "Hu! Hu!" She was a terrifying and threatening creature. She carries a huge basket on her back in which she put disobedient children that she stole, taking them to her home to eat them. However, the children usually outwitted her, as she is vain, stupid and clumsy. In another aspect, Dzunuk̕wa is the owner of the K̕wala’sta "Water of Life", one of many gifts that she would bestow on people fortunate enough to encounter and befriend her. Amongst the Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw, her most important role is the bringer of wealth and good fortune.

Dzunuk̕wa appears in both the T̕seka "Red Cedar Bark Ceremonies" and the Tła’sala "Peace Dances". In both ceremonies the dancers will appear with a Dzunuk̕wa mask and a longhaired full-bodied costume, sometimes carrying a large basket strapped to their back. Sometimes extended large hands will be carved to add to the theatrics of the costume. These hands usually have faces painted on the palms to represent sad disobedient children who have been stolen by the Dzunuk̕wa. In most cases, especially in the Tła’sala, the dancer will wear hemlock decorations indicating its connection to the forest. Both dancers will appear from behind the curtain, in the Tła’sala this also signifies coming from the woods. In both ceremonies, the dancer moves about very slowly and rubs their eyes as if very tired and sleepy. They will motion towards the floor as if picking up children and putting them into her basket. In the T̕seka, Dzunuk̕wa is not awake enough to dance the normal four circuits around the fire, but staggers in the wrong direction and when escorted to her seat, she falls asleep; whereas, Dzunuk̕wa in the Tła’sala only dances around the floor once. In another role in both ceremonies, she carries a basket of coppers that she gives to the Chief who is selling or giving them away, or breaking them for a rival Chief.

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