The Wild Woman of the Woods

Posted on September 16, 2014

Although the artistic traditions and styles of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are as varied as the different First Nation bands themselves; much of their subject matter stems from the same stories, myths and legends. The northwest coast First Nations all tell the tales of the wild woman of the woods.

A fearsome figure supposedly twice as big as regular humans, the wild woman was a black and hairy ogress with great powers. Elders would tell children that if they foolishly ventured into the forest alone, the wild woman would surely capture and eat them whole. On her back, she carried a basket where she’d put the children before whisking them away. Although the wild woman represents the dangerous and dark part of the forests, she’s also a bringer of prosperity for many northwest shore Canadian First Nations.

In the third of an ongoing series of videos exploring the diverse world of west coast Aboriginal art, carver Raymond Shaw chats with fellow artist Andy Everson about the Wild Woman of the Woods mask that he is working on.

Everson, who is both K’omoks and Kwakwaka’wakw, and the grandson of the late Chief Andy Frank, has followed in the footsteps of his Kwakiutl relatives in creating bold and unique representations that remain rooted in the timeless traditions of his ancestors. Shaw is a member of the Weiwakum band of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, and is a self-taught artist with a passion for his Aboriginal heritage who began carving and drawing at an early age.

In the video, Shaw talks about the wild woman legends and reveals the efforts that go into creating one of his magnificent masks.

If you’re travelling through Port Alberni, make sure to stop at the Ahtsik Art Gallery to view authentic Aboriginal art.

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