This Ridicule Figure or Pole is carved in red cedar and stands about 6 feet tall. It is painted in black acrylic by Kwagu’ł artist Calvin Hunt and Kwagu’ł artist Mervyn Child.
This massive Kwakwaka’wakw female figure has a dual cultural reference with quite opposite interpretations. The first is a historical reference to a practice among many Northwest Coast First Nations. Ridicule Poles or large Shaming Figures were intended to publicly belittle a rival Chief if a social obligation was not fulfilled or a misdeed not corrected. Commissioning or carving a figure or pole expressly for this purpose was a serious and expensive proposition—not undertaken frivolously—and it usually produced the desired results. The Tlingit in Alaska have had centuries-long tradition of ridicule poles depicting European and American statesmen and Presidents who have violated treaties and traditions. Their tradition continues to the present day.
Historically, the Kwakwaka’wakw tradition of ridicule poles and figures has been much different. In some cases, ridicule poles were altered once the offense was corrected, as in the famous Dzunuḵ̓wa figure erected in Gwa’yasdam’s village on Gilford Island prior to 1914. For 3 years, the figure faced down the beach toward the owner’s in-laws, who had not paid a marriage debt. When the in-laws honoured the debt, the pole was painted red and pivoted to face the water. Thus, the pole was transformed into a statement about the family treasures, as coppers, symbols of great wealth, were attached to her head and hands.
Calvin says, This kind of shaming is not something that’s done anymore. It’s the same thing as breaking coppers—they decided that enough’s enough and it was causing too much fighting within families. I think it’s a good thing, but at the same time, it was part of our history and our culture.
The second aspect of this dramatic figure is revealed in the painted designs on her body that represent timeless Kwakwaka’wakw treasures. A shaming figure would not be painted in this manner, Calvin noted. These graphic elements celebrate the continuing tradition of respect and honour for all Kwakwakaʼwakw women who are the Chief-Makers.
This Ridicule Figure is carved in red cedar and the designs are painted in black acrylic. This free-standing figure is over 72 inches (182 cm) tall, including the stand. It is about 35 inches (85 cm) wide and 18½ inches (47 cm) in depth. The Figure is mounted in a solid, hand-adzed black stand that can be detached.
This price does not include shipping. Please contact us concerning the extra cost of packaging and shipping.