I ran across this exquisite doll depicting a person in a Dzonoqua ceremonial mask and costume. The mask shows the traditional depiction of Dzonoqua, the wild woman of the woods, with her pursed lips as if whistling (as bigfoots are reported to do). Dzonoqua is covered in hair, and is often represented in ceremonies by a person wearing bear fur and a mask as is seen in the doll. In the images above, Dzonoqua’s breasts are depicted indicating she is a female figure, a giantess or ogress, not her mail counterpart known as Bukwas. It is generally thought that she and Bukwas represent sasquatch. For more on the Dzonoqua mythology, click this link.
The artist responsible for this piece is the late Shona-Hah, also known as Mary Smith. The work was created sometime around 1980 using red cedar, cedar bark, wood, faux fur, greens and pigment. I think all would agree this is a tremendous representation.
I could find little online about Shona-Hah, though I found many pieces of art she created. What little I found about the artist herself is below:
Shona-Hah (1912-1997) is the mother of Lelooska, Kwunkwa-dzi, Patty Fawn, and Tsungani. She was born in a black walnut log cabin in Oklahoma’s old Cherokee Nation. There, she was given the name Shona-Hah, “gray dove”. Her Kwakiutl name, Tl’alilhilugwa, bestowed in 1968 by , means “whale rising”.
Shona-Hah’s life bespeaks her Indian heritage. In her youth, she both trained horses and rode in races and exhibitions. As a small child, she began participating in the traditional dances and continued throughout her life. Always interested in all facets of Indian art, she exceled at beadwork, skin sewing, carving, painting, and doll making.
Her dolls are valued highly by private collectors and museums as illustrations of vanished cultures. They bring alive both ceremonial and every day events in the lives of the people of many different North American tribes. From the Osage of Oklahoma to the Kwakiutls of British Columbia, she draws on first-hand knowledge of the cultures and the memories of the Old Ones for her inspiration.
Shona-Hah’s children credit her with their love and respect for Indian art and traditions. She taught them the skills she had acquired and sacrificed to help them become artists in their own right.
“She and our grandfather,” Lelooska says, “imparted to us that which was to become the essence of our heritage.”
Passing away in October of 1997, Shona-Hah occupied a place of major importance in the family structure. A cohesive element in the group, she was also an important contributor to the educational programs. She not only participated in them, she also made many of the costumes.
If you or someone you know has more information about Shona Ha, her work, or her legacy, I would be very interested to hear more about it. Feel free to contact me by clicking this link and sharing what you know about her. Thank you!
UPDATE – 12/18/18
A reader sent me more information on Shona-Hah from the Seattle Times. The article is below:
Indian Dollmaker Carves Niche For Herself With An EyeFor Detail
By Tom Vogt
ARIEL, Cowlitz County – Shona-Hah prefers old faces. Creased by the years, weary and wrinkled, they have stories to tell. And she helps tell them. She coaxes their stories out of wood, then fills them in with cloth and leather and human hair. When she’s done, the result is a 12-inch doll portraying a Native American; an old Indian,usually.
“I don’t like to carve young people,” she said in her studio near Ariel, northeast of Woodland. “They don’t have much to say. Older people have a lot of history on them.”
That includes the Clark County dollmaker. Her father performed in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Born in 1911, Mary Smith is three-quarters Cherokee and one-quarter French. (Shona-Hah is Cherokee for Gray Dove and it is the name she uses professionally.) She says she was born in Oklahoma or Missouri. Their dirt-floor cabin straddled the state line, and “I don’t know which state I was born in,” she said with a smile.
She lived on a reservation until the age of 4, then grew up on a Wyoming cattle ranch. At 6, Mary survived being struck by lightning. “Shoshone and Arapaho would come down to touch her,” Don Smith, her son, said. “They thought she was blessed. That’s some heavy-duty blessing.
“Don Smith was seated at a nearby table, bent over a block of cedar that will become shore birds nesting on an ocean-side rock. He is better known as noted story-teller and mask-carver Chief Lelooska.
“Almost everybody here has more than one name; it’s hard for the post office to sort it out,” said Patty Fawn, Mary Smith’s daughter.
BEEN ARTIST MOST OF HER LIFE
Three of Mary Smith’s four children are artists with work on display at the Lelooska Gallery. Mary Smith has been an artist for most of her life, although she might dispute that description.
“She doesn’t consider herself an artist,” Fawn said. “But people who collect her dolls fight over them.
“One collector calls Mary Smith the modern equivalent of Charlie Russell.
“He was the best of the Western artists,” said Ken MacRae of Enumclaw. “She has more skill, she’s better at what she does” than anyone else in her line of work.
“Most people call them dolls, but I call them little people,” said MacRae, who has been collecting Smith’s work for 30 years. “She doesn’t know she’s the artist that she is.”
“I carve to help make a living for my family,” Mary Smith said as her son’s knife released more fragrance of fresh-carved cedar into the room. “It’s a necessity. Isn’t that what drives us all?
“I just remember the crazy jobs I took,” said Smith, who just turned 84. “I carved a lot of flying horses for Mobil Oil managers. I’ve done velvet paintings. One woman, whose husband was an importer, had her house fashioned in Chinese style and wanted dragons on her drapes.”
After the woman bought two huge pieces of velvet for the drapes, “We painted gold dragons on black velvet,” she said.
“I carved 100 horses with saddles so we could put a roof on our house here,” she said.
DIDN’T KEEP COUNT OF PIECES
Smith has no idea how many Indian dolls she has produced, although she kept a log for several years.
“You can see the price go up, too,” Smith said. The early works in the log went for about $250 in the mid 1970’s. One of her latest creations is “The Journey,” showing an old woman and her dog on a trek. It is on display next door at the family gallery with a price tag of $1,250. MacRae said four of Smith’s dolls were selling for $1,800 apiece at a recent Indian art show in California.
Each transaction in Smith’s log also described the type of Indian, and what he or she was doing.
“I like to have them doing something – making baskets, cutting up a salmon. One played the violin,” Smith said. Her current creation is an Indian woman carrying her grandson in a blanket backpack.
“Like a lot of people raised traditionally, an Indian lady is never idle,” Don Smith said. “That’s why the dolls do something.”
Each Indian also represents a particular tribe.
“We always try to put them in authentic costumes,” she said. “Seminoles are the worst – those costumes. And they’ll drive you crazy with their hairdos.”
“Nobody anywhere is making them as accurately as she is,” MacRae said.
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