Beau Dick – Awakshum (Wild Woman)

Beau Dick
Kwakwaka’wakw, 1955-2017

Awakshum (Wild Woman)
Red cedar & horse hair


Born in Alert Bay, Vancouver Island, Beau Dick grew up in neighboring Kingcome Inlet, an area known for its preservation of Kwakwaka’wakw cultural heritage. Beau’s grandfather, James Dick, and his father, Ben Dick, along with other master artists such as Willie Seaweed, Charlie James, and Mungo Martin, dedicated themselves to ensuring that Kwakwaka’wakw artistic and ceremonial traditions would be passed along to future generations.

Beau began carving at a young age and continued to focus on First Nations art after moving to Vancouver in high school, gaining early recognition for his skill as a painter and carver. He studied carving with Tony Hunt Sr. in Victoria and Doug Cranmer in Vancouver and also acknowledged Bill Reid as a significant influence. Among the most prolific and celebrated artists of his generation, he fulfilled numerous major commissions, including a four-way split transformation mask for the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver and an eleven-figure pole for Vancouver’s Stanley Park. His art reflects both the rich Kwakwaka’wakw cultural legacy andinfluences from Europe and Asia, and has been exhibited around the globe.

An activist as well as an artist, Beau was devoted to the cause of justice for First Nations people. He will always be remembered for both his art and his humanity.

Tsonoqua (Dzunuk’wa, Tsonokwa), Wild Woman of the Woods, is a mythic being with dark skin and hair, about twice the size of a human being. She reputedly has great wealth, although by reputation she is slow-witted and has poor eyesight. She captures children and carries them in a basket on her back, planning to take them home to eat; the children typically manage to outsmart her and escape.

Portrayals of Tsonoqua show her with pursed lips to evoke her wild cry, which resembles wind whistling through cedar forests. She has long, pendulous breasts and matted hair, and her eyes are rimmed with red, set in deep sockets.