Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red cedar, acrylic, feathers, plastic, horsehair, and duct tape
15” x 8” x 7”
Most commonly, Towkwit is a female shamanic being who cannot be killed. Over and over again in ceremony, her head is cut off and she is “killed” and resurrected. One of the stories that the Kwakwaka’wakw people love to tell about Towkwit, is how a chief from a neighbouring tribe attended the Towkwit ceremony. This chief was so convinced by the act of Towkwit’s head being cut off that he went home and tried to replicate the magic, only to be left with a decapitated daughter. Usually, a Towkwit head is wrapped in muslin rubbed with red ochre. However, the fully carved features and hair of this piece are almost completely obscured by a plastic garbage bag, with only the eye peering through a ripped hole. The black garbage bag and duct tape gives this Towkwit a jarring, bleak weight. Holding the head is a visceral experience encompassing more than visual senses; the weight of it feels all too accurate and the realness is intense.