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Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)

Red cedar, acrylic paint and marine rope

42″ x 26″ x 11″


Amongst the Kwakwaka’wakw, the souls of the dead are widely believed to live as ghosts in their own villages in the spirit world, where everything is an exact inversion of the world of the living, the seasons and daylight hours being opposite. During the Kwakwaka’wakw ceremony of Winalagalis, the War Spirit, dancers wearing ghost masks appear in a performance that dramatizes a visit to the land of the dead. Ghosts frequently accompany Bak’was (Bookwus), the Wild Man of the Woods, who is associated particularly with the souls of the drowned. According to Nuxalk mythology, the scarcity of food in the spirit world drives ghosts into the realm of the living, where they can be recognized by their singing and whistling. Sometimes a ghost mask will have the eyes and mouth filled with some substance, representing the pitch that is traditionally put in the eye sockets and mouth of the dead in order to prevent the soul of the body from being lost. This is one of the masks used by Beau in the Opening Ceremonies of the “Walk for Truth & Reconciliation” in Vancouver, British Columbia, on September 22, 2013