Towkwid Puppet

About this object

History of use

Traditionally used in potlatches by a Towkwid dancer, a woman of high rank. At a present day potlatch in Alert Bay, the Towkwid dancer emerged wearing a bearskin cloak with replicas of human skulls, carried a long copper dagger, and danced to the four corners of the big house, drawing the creatures of the spirit world towards her. The dagger was used to cut through to the spirit world. As tension builds and the drum beats accelerate, the Towkwid spirits emerge and they can represent spirits of the sky, the earth (including humans), or the sea. This is a very Kwakwaka'wakw dramatic presentation. There might be a puppet box buried in the floor, and the puppet box would emerge, manipulated by strings. The human beings might represent the family throwing the potlatch or perhaps one of their revered dead.

Narrative

This pair of puppets (2607/1-2) was presented to Judge Scow by his nephew Barry on his retirement from the provincial court bench June 27, 1992. Barry chose the man and woman puppets in recognition of the spirit of determination and achievement that Alfred's career as a First Nations person represented, along with the support of his wife Joan, on that journey.

Physical description

Male Towkwid puppet with cotton-stuffed white cloth body and carved wooden head, hands and feet. Unsewn strips of red fabric are tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles. The face is marked by brightly painted red lips, black pupils and thick black eyebrows. Coarse black hair extends in tufts from holes covering the top and back of the head. It has been braided and secured with a twist tie.