Totem pole

Totem pole and group of masks
Kwakwaka wakw people
Calvin Hunt and Mervyn Child
British Columbia, Canada
1999
Cedar, plant fibre, cotton; H.420 cm
Inv. ETAM.99.1.1 & ETAM 2007.1.1-4

Totem poles are representative objects of the peoples of the Pacific Northwest in Canada, where clans and lineage hold a place of prime importance. Each clan has its own heraldic symbols, reproduced not only on these poles but also in paintings and weavings. This pole was carved in 1999 during the Indian Summer exhibition by artists Calvin Hunt and Mervyn Child, who also made the four associated masks.

It represents the Cannibal Giant, an important spirit of the Hamatsa Society. The members of this prestigious secret society met in the winter to initiate young men. Festivals were organized, lasting several days, at which many dances by masked men, the Hamsamala, took place. They represent the associates of the Cannibal Spirit. The masks used to ‘tame’ the Hamatsa are among the most flamboyant in all Pacific Northwest art.

Discover this masterpiece in our American collection and in the book Masterpieces of the Cinquantenaire Museum.