xa'apl (Cradle Puppet)

About this object

History of use

Used in winter ceremonial performances.


U'dzistalis, a Kwakwaka'wakw man, married a Heiltsuk woman, who brought this privilege: k!is'u with her. "Brought from Bella Bella before I was born" -D. Roberts & D. Hawkins; "Mrs. J. Roberts was said to own the original" -B. Scow (1966).

Iconographic meaning

Said to represent a child born of an incestuous marriage: hilhdzaqw. The parents lived in the woods, but the child returned to its village. According to Michael E. Harkin, the figure--a prerogative associated with the xa'apl (cradle dance)--is not an infant, but a pubescent girl (see Bodies of Enchantment, p. 63).

Physical description

Rectangular cradle with a high back. Puppet lies inside, and is painted with black and red paint on its face, chest and hands; fabric arms. Crest-painted cloth underneath puppet. Figure sits up as strings are pulled. Post sticks up at front (said to hold a revolving toy). Head of the figure turns from side to side. Sides and top painted with designs in black, red and green. (Part b is a piece of the cloth that has separated.)