Skip to main content

Dzunukwa Mask

Artist Culture
Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl)
Date
c.1870
Material
Wood with pigment, human hair, bear fur, seal skin, raffia, cloth, and metal nails
Place associated
Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada, North and Central America
Classification
Costume & clothing, sculpture, wood
Current Location
On View, Gallery 326
Dimensions
13 x 11 3/4 x 6 in. (33 x 29.8 x 15.2 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Morton D. May
Rights
Public Domain
Object Number
269:1982
NOTES
The deep-set eyes, bright red pursed lips, and contrasting black painted face give this mask a sense of power. These features, including the attached human hair and animal fur, support the interpretation of this mask as Dzunukwa, or “The Wild Woman of the Woods” for the Kwakwaka’wakw of British Columbia. The range of Dzunukwa’s supernatural powers allows her to both kidnap and eat children or bestow good fortune. The mask is also interpreted as related to Kwakwaka’wakw chiefly regalia. Masks such as these are worn by the chief or high-ranking individuals to affirm longstanding ancestral heritage.
- 1967
Lucy Brown, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada, by inheritance [1]

1967 - 1982
Morton D. May, St. Louis, MO, USA, purchased from Lucy Brown, through agent James Economos [2]

1982 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [3]


Notes:
[1] An invoice dated June 23, 1967 notes payment to Lucy Brown at Alert Bay, BC. The invoice describes the mask as "one Tsonquo mask / Kwakiutl, ca. 1850", and notes "The mask has belong [sic] to our family for over [a] hundred years." A note on the accession record states "[The mask] was formerly the property of her grandfather, a Kwakiutl chieftain" [SLAM document files].

[2] See Note [1]. In an email dated July 26, 2008, James Economos writes: "I collected the Tsonoqua mask directly from Lucy Brown in Alert Bay in 1967 when I was acquiring objects for our upcoming Northwest Coast show at the May company, Los Angeles" [SLAM document files].

[3] A letter dated November 29, 1982 from Morton D. May to James D. Burke, director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, includes the offer of this object as part of a larger donation [Director's Office, Donor Files, Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, December 17, 1982.
Scroll back to top