The Dzunuk'wa mask

Mask on loan from the Horniman museum

'Hu! Hu!' she cries through pursed lips.
Dzunuk'wa, the Giant of the Woods, strode through the forest crying out and terrifying the disobedient children playing amongst the trees. With a huge basket on her back, primed and ready for the naughty children, she hunted them down to take them away to be eaten for her dinner.  But the children knew Dzunuk'wa was very vain and clumsy, so they outwitted her attempts to kidnap them.  They played games and made the giant dance in circles so she would get tired and fall asleep, so the children escaped, taking her supernatural powers with them.

This is just one of the many different stories of Dzunuk'wa from the Kwakwaka'wakw people that have been re-told in important and theatrical ceremonies.  It is this re-telling of stories and interpretation of characters that has such a strong link with Shakespeare and theatre; the Dzunuk'wa mask transforms the individual into the giant, as a costume transforms an actor.

From the Horniman Museum, London.

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