This Xwixwi Mask by Kwagu’ł artist Calvin Hunt is carved in red cedar and painted in red, green, and black acrylic.
XwiXwi masks originated from the Sxwaixwe, a sacred Coast Salish mask. Though the Salish have many spirit dances and songs, the Sxwaixwe is their only dance mask. Imbued with great supernatural powers, this underwater being was associated with healing and rumbling earthquakes. The Sxwaixwe mask had large peg eyes, no lower mandible, and bird heads for a nose and above its forehead. The dancer carried a large scallop shell rattle.
Nearly 150 years ago, the Kwakwaka’wakw acquired the rights to the mask from the K’ómoks people as part of a marriage dowry. They modified the unique Salish mask to create their own special version of the XwiXwi.
"Our versions of the mask are quite a bit different from the Salish, but it has some of the influences of the Sxwaixwe. On my mask, the red sticks on the side of the mask and the surrounding feathers were inspired by the typical Sxwaixwe form. The wool is similar to the dog wool that was used on those masks and in making Salish ceremonial blankets and tunics. Those dogs are extinct now, so I’ve used commercial wool to reflect the Salish history behind the XwiXwi." —Calvin Hunt
This mask is about 78 cm wide or 30 1/2 inches with feathers or about 35cm or 14 inches without, 68 cm tall or about 27 inches with feathers or 37 cm without, and about 19cm or 7 1/2 inches deep.