Feast Dish

About this object

History of use

Feast dishes were used at ceremonial occasions. They were part of a household's crest belongings and important ones were named. Food was dished out of feast bowls by the hosts' family into smaller serving dishes. These were then distributed to the guests in the correct order of rank, established for the particular occasion.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

Feast dishes symbolized abundant resources. Dzunuk'wa is a member of the large family of giants who live in the far away mountains and woods. Black in colour, with bushy, unkempt hair and a pursed mouth through which she utters the cry Hu! Hu!, she is a terrifying and threatening creature. She carries a huge basket on her back in which she puts the disobedient children she steals, taking them to her home to eat them. However, the children usually outwit her, as she is vain, stupid and clumsy. In another aspect, Dzunuk'wa is the possessor of the “Water-of-Life”, a gift she would bestow on people fortunate enough to encounter and overcome her. Her most important role is the bringer of wealth and good fortune. In the Winter Ceremonies, Dzunuk'wa appears in two forms. As a dancer in the T'seka, she is a shaggy lumbering creature with half shut eyes. She is not awake enough to dance the normal four circuits around the fire, but staggers in the wrong direction and when escorted to her seat, she falls asleep. In her other role, she carries a basket of coppers that she gives to the Chief who is selling or giving them away.

Physical description

Dzunuk'wa feast dish carved from a single piece of wood in shape of reclining figure, Dzunuk'wa (Tsonoqua), with head at one end; centre is deep ovoid bowl and opposite end has drawn up knees with block-like feet. Head is deeply carved with hair outlined; nose, pursed mouth and chin in higher relief than eyes and cheeks. Cheek band is mid-height. Head cuts off sharply at chin. Bowl has hands on either side with carved ovoid shape on palm and ovoids with split u's and ovoid on shoulder area. Painted black with red details on mouth, nostrils, bowl rim and with white shoulder detail. White on palm. Adze marks in longitudinal lines. Flat on bottom.