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Sons of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe'
Released October 2013
A/P: SOLD OUT
Alone in the wilderness, the young hamatsa initiate is forced to undergo a transformation. Waking before dawn, he immerses himself in the glacier-fed stream where he ritually cleanses himself of all impurities. He removes his human scent and begins to smell of the forest and of the wild. After a prolonged period of seclusion, fasting and prayer, his body is overtaken by a spirit earlier unknown to him. The name of this spirit is Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’--the Cannibal-at-the-north-end-of-the-world.
Overtaken by this spirit, the initiate becomes consumed with the desire to eat human flesh. Enticed by an assistant--usually his sister--the young initiate is persuaded to go back to his village. There, guests have assembled in a traditional bighouse and await his return. Slowly and apprehensively he enters the house with arms alternately stretched out reaching for food. With his body clad only in hemlock branches, his eyes roll back into his skull while his lips remain pursed, ostensibly in a wild trance-like state whose only desire is to seek out human flesh. Going wild he runs into a back room that has been set aside for him. He then emerges out of a hole in the room’s dance screen--a kind of rebirth that is repeated four times.
Finally he is surrounded by older hamatsas who shake their rattles to calm him down. Fire is passed over his head four times and he is stripped of his hemlock. Mountain goat tallow and charcoal are then applied to his face and dyed red cedar bark headpiece, neckrings and other items festoon his body. Finally a layer of eagle down coats the top of his head--a white crown that comes from the heavens. It is then that specially composed songs are sung to pacify the dancer. Slowly, the hamatsa begins to dance. Initially he merely crouches, but eventually begins to rise in response to the syncopated rhythm of the music.
During the final phase of his taming, the hamatsa enters the dance floor one last time clad in a glorious robe, headdress and neckring. He is then joined by all other hamatsas that are in attendance. This is done to not only show everyone who the hamatsas are, but also to welcome the new dancer into the fold of this most sacred society. Hamatsas are our highest dancers as they have journeyed deep within themselves, become possessed by the most fearsome spirit and have returned to their community where their transformation can guide them in their role as community leaders. I dedicate “Sons of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’” to all of the hamatsa dancers out there who continue to uphold the most revered laws and practices of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Hap!
“Sons of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’” is a limited edition print using the giclée method of printmaking. This print was released in October of 2013 and printed by Andy Everson at Copper Canoe, the artist’s own studio in Comox B.C. A total of 28 prints bear the title “Sons of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’” and are signed by Andy Everson: 25 in the primary edition bearing the numbers 1/25 through 25/25; 2 Artist’s Proof; and 1 Printer’s Proof. The acid-free Moab Entrada 100% cotton rag paper measures 17x22 inches. Image size measures about 14x16.5 inches.