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Xxa´niyus (Bob Harris, Kwakwaka´wakw, ca. 1870–ca. 1935),'Kumukwamł (Chief of the undersea mask)
ca. 1900
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Wood, paint
35.5 x 40.5 cm

“The everyday name or summer name of the famous Da´naxda´xw (New Vancouver Tribe) carver Bob Harris was Xxa´niyus, “Always Giving Away All His Blankets.” He was an initiated Hamaťsa, or Cannibal Dancer, and his winter dance name or secret society name was Baxwbakwalanukw (Man-Eater). He was a Hereditary Chief belonging to the'Kam'kamtalał (Song Makers Clan) of the A´wa´etłala (Knight Inlet Tribe) that amalgamated with the Danaxda´xw in recent times and are now considered one tribe. Today, Xxa´niyus Bob Harris is considered one of the greatest master carvers of all times amongst the Kwakwaka´wakw.”
—William Wasden, Jr. (Hiłamas, Kwakwaka´wakw)

This mask is carved from western red cedar and is painted in green, red, and black natural pigment paints and two shades of blue made from Reckitt’s laundry whitener. The mask represents 'Kumugwe´ (Wealthy), the Chief of the undersea kingdom. The eyes are inlayed with round blue trade beads that created a sparkling reflection from the firelight as the dancer slowly moved around the fire on the dance floor. The eyebrows are thick and represent those of a male, supporting the belief that this is'Kumugwe´ and not his wife. Between the eyebrows there is an overhanging cluster of red frown lines, a signature of the artist; the symbolism of this feature is unknown.

The U-shaped designs on much of the face represent scaling like that of fish or supernatural beings from the sea. Two stylized salmon-trout heads are further representation of the fishlike qualities 'Kumugwe´ possesses. These ovoid appendages are part of the composition of some character that was originally mounted on top of the head. A large hole drilled through the top of the mask would have allowed the lost prop to twist from side to side or spin around. There is a smaller hole where a string was threaded through to manipulate the object on top. The prop could have been one of many creatures associated with 'Kumugwe´—a starfish, various fishes or sea mammals, sea birds such as seagulls, or diving birds like loons, messengers between the upper world and the undersea. Scales or gills around the outside rim of the mask are made from a different type of wood. Their artwork does not match the quality of the facial design, and the blue and red shades do not match. This mask has been repaired and made more elaborate than it originally was, most likely by another artist not familiar with the style of the master carver who created it.

There appears to have been a bundle of hair nailed on top of the mask behind the left trout head. The presence of hair suggests that this is a mask for the Dłuwalaxa (Returned from Heaven Ceremony), now called Tła´sala (Peace Dances) by the Kwakwaka´wakw. These dances are considered less sacred than the.Tseka (Sacred Red Cedar Bark Ceremonies), which are only performed in the winter season.

All ceremonial Kwakwaka´wakw masks depict characters from family histories or supernatural encounters. All details on masks have a story and are intentional. Another name for 'Kumugwe´ is.Tłakwagila (Copper-Maker), as he is the greatest source of the most prized cultural wealth, copper. His house is made of copper, and his wealth is often sought after by legendary heroes in hope of gaining cultural riches. Various sea monsters guard his home under the ocean, and the doorway of his supernatural house is a mouth of one of these fabulous creatures that is constantly opening and snapping shut. In many stories, certain ancestors were able to safely encounter 'Kumugwe´ and enter his house. After befriending the supernatural being, some young men were permitted to marry one of his daughters and receive his riches as dowry. The killer whales are the warriors of 'Kumugwe´, and the sea lions are his messengers; seals are his pets and are considered his dogs. All the fishes and supernatural beings from the sea reside in his house and belong to him.

—William Wasden, Jr. (Hiłamas, Kwakwaka´wakw), U'mista Cultural Centre

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