“Pook-mis Mask” by Beau Dick

By: Palmer Jarvis

Lot 175 – Beau Dick (1955-2017), Kwakwaka’wakw, POOK-MIS MASK (SPIRIT OF THE NEARLY DROWNED), 1989; shredded cedar bark, cedar, paint, feathers, twine; signed and dated; also inscribed “West Coast / Pook-Mis.” 30.5 x 15 x 9 in — 77.5 x 38.1 x 22.9 cm. Estimate $10,000-$15,000

Born in the community of Yalis (Alert Bay), British Columbia, Beau Dick, known as Walas Gwa’yam, which translates to Big Whale, is widely acknowledged for his importance as both an artist and activist. His artworks have contributed to the ceremonial life of his community, and have expanded the popular conception of Northwest Coast art and imagery among collectors and fellow artists.

Many of Dick’s creations take on a haunting or otherworldly aspect mediated by the artist’s integration of a colour palette and style incorporating imagery from Japanese and Western pop culture.

The present artwork is inscribed in the interior West Coast Pook-mis, and depicts the ghost-like Pookmis spirit, sometimes called Pukwu:bis by the Makah, Spirit of the Nearly Drowned, The Other Wild Man or The Destroyer. (1) Pookmis masks are part of an extended family of wild-man and wild-woman imagery that includes the cannibalistic Dzunukwa spirit, who is sometimes said to be the keeper of drowned souls, returning the souls of drowned whalers to their villages during their memorials.

Pook-mis includes a length of twine suspending a cedar whistle. Whistles are closely associated on the Northwest Coast with the voices of spirits, and among the Tlingit are sometimes even called ye’k se (spirit’s voice). (2)


Held online from May 24-29, 2024, Waddington’s is pleased to present our major spring auction of exceptional Inuit & First Nations Art. Important artworks this season include works of sculpture and graphics by Karoo Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Kiakshuk, John Pangnark, Pauta Saila, Aisa Qupirualu Alasua, Parr, Osuitok Ipeelee, Kiugak Ashoona, Joe Talirunili, John Kavik, Kenojuak Ashevak, Johnny Inukpuk, Thomas Ugjuk, Ennutsiak, Davidialuk Alasua Amittu, Beau Dick, Charlie James, David Ruben Piqtoukun, Abraham Apakark Anghik, Manasie Akpaliapik, Judas Ullulaq, Barnabus Arnasungaaq, and John Tiktak.

Previews will be available at our Toronto gallery, located at 275 King Street East, Second Floor, Toronto:

Thursday, May 23 from 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, May 24 from 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday, May 25 from 12 pm to 4 pm
Sunday, May 26 from 12 pm to 4 pm
Monday, May 27 from 10 am to 5 pm
Tuesday, May 28 from 10 am to 5 pm
Or by appointment.

Please contact us for more information

(1) Feest, Christian. “Transformations of a Mask: Confidential Intelligence from the Lifeway of Things.” Baessler-Archiv, Neue Folge, Band XLVI. 1998. https://cajs.no/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Transformations_of_a_Mask_Confidential_I.pdf
(2) George Thorton Emmons and Frederica de Laguna, The Tlingit Indians (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991), 454.


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