Jack Gibson

Bukwas, or Wild Man of the Woods, is a significant supernatural spirit being of the Kwagiulth Nation and casts a haunting figure in their great annual winter dance.


He is linked with the underworld of the dead, and with ghosts, especially the spirits of the drowned, who hover near him. Mysterious and illusive, he lurks at the edge of the dark forest in which he lives, offering food to lost humans, luring them to become spirits living in his shadowy underworld. This figure represents a Kwagiulth dancer wearing a carefully carved cedar mask, portraying Bukwas creeping to a sandbank on a sunny morning to dig for cockles, his favourite food. Very shy, he peers about to see if he is being watched as he shields his face from the sun with his hands. In the Kwagiulth performance, the dancer creeps in a crouched position, shielding his face, glancing around cautiously. Suddenly he leaps forward, settles on one knee searching for cockles, devouring them quickly, sometimes uttering a high pitched whoop or shriek from a concealed whistle.