Dzoonakwa (Wild Woman of the Woods) Mask by Gene Brabant, Cree
Dzoonakwa (Wild Woman of the Woods) Mask, 1990 by Gene Brabant, Cree First Nation red cedar, horsehair, pigment 19” high x 19” wide x 9” deep
Gene Brabant was born in Victoria B.C. on October 16 1946. "My family moved out here from Saskatchewan during the second world war and after my father was discharged they stayed in Victoria." When he was seven they moved to James Bay right behind the parliament buildings in Victoria. The Hunt family lived a half block away and he soon became friends with the sons and daughters of Henry Hunt.
Gene's father was a professional guitar player and singer. " I remember him singing Hank Williams and Indian songs with Mungo Martin and Henry Hunt until early in the morning, keeping the whole neighborhood up."
Mungo and Henry were starting the Thunderbird Park project at the Royal Museum Of British Columbia. Gene, along with one of Henry's sons Alex, spent a lot of time at the park watching them carve the totem poles and building the big house. " One day we were sitting on the roof looking down the smoke hole watching Mungo paint one of the house posts. He yelled at us to get down before we fell." Gene also spent a lot of time at the museum looking at the old pieces in their collection. It was at this time that he knew he would be a carver.
In his early twenties he carved on his own and did a lot of painting. A few years earlier Tony Hunt Sr. had offered to teach him to carve and one day he went to Thunderbird Park to talk to him. Tony along with John Livingston had just started a workshop and gallery named Arts Of The Raven. Gene spent the 70's learning and working there.
"Since I've been carving I've always been interested in the old style of carving. The way the old masters did their work is intriguing and I did a lot of travelling across Canada and the United States going to museums studying the old pieces. I would like to see them all. I believe you can't write a symphony if you don't know all the classics.
Gene has been in numerous gallery shows. The Museum Of Man in Ottawa has a Thunderbird Transformation of his and the Royal Museum of B.C. has two Bella Coola face Masks. The Seattle Art Museum recently acquired a Geeacum Mask that will be part of their permanent collection. The Museum Of Osaka, Japan has a Tlingit house post he made with Tony Hunt Sr., Calvin Hunt and John Livingston.
Gene specializes in commissions to duplicate old pieces. He carves in all styles of the northwest coast but prefers Kwaguilth and Bella Coola. Amongst his peers he is considered one of the best. His work is collected world wide.