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John Cussans

John Cussans is an artist and writer whose work draws on the cultural legacies of Surrealism and avant-garde ethnography within contemporary art and popular culture. His book Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and the Zombie Complex (MIT / Strange Attractor Press, 2017) explores the uses of Haiti as a locus for Euro-American fears about African culture, spirituality and revolutionary excess in the Americas, and their sublimation into popular horror tropes. Since 2016 he has been working on an inter-disciplinary, artistic research project called The Skullcracker Suite—inspired by Hox’hok, the giant cannibal crane of Kwakwaka’wakw Oral Traditions—which investigates processes of cultural decolonization in British Columbia since the 1970s.

Beau Dick: Devoured by Consumerism
Format: Hardcover
Grade Levels: 10; 11; 12; University/College;

Accompanying an exhibition of Beau Dick’s work, this beautifully illustrated volume distills his powerful argument against our unsustainable way of living.

"With this body of work, Beau intended to launch his most overt critique of a system that he knew was unsustainable, in favour of a return to the cultural values of his people, and his profound generosity compelled him to share these values as widely as possible." - LaTiesha Fazakas

Beau Dick (1955 - 2017) was celebrated far beyond his hometown of Alert Bay, B.C., for both his political activism and his creation of striking, larger-than-life carved masks inspired by the traditional stories of the Kwakwaka'wakw. Dick's multi-faceted engagement with Kwakwaka'wakw culture included carving (which he learned from Northwest Coast artists such as Henry Hunt, Doug Cranmer, and Bill Reid), storytelling, and dancing.

As a high-ranking member of Hamat'sa, the prestigious Kwakwaka'wakw secret society centred on the story of a ravenous, man-eating spirit, Dick drew on all these art forms to create regalia for and participate in elaborate ceremonies that enacted Kwakwaka'wakw cosmology. Devoured by Consumerism shares nearly two dozen of these masks: vivid, unforgettable creations, made with traditional and contemporary methods and materials, depicting figures like Cannibal Raven, Nu-Tla-Ma (Fool Dancer), and Bookwus (Wild Man of the Woods).

Texts by LaTiesha Fazakas, John Cussans, and Candice Hopkins outline the stories that the masks depict, consider the inescapable parallels between Hamat'sa and the consumerism of capitalist society, and grapple with the philosophy that animates Hamat'sa - one that seeks to confront and, ultimately, master the voracious appetites inside us all.

Educator Information
A useful book for the study of art and culture.

Devoured by Consumerism is Beau Dick's aesthetic response to Western capitalist values and an overt critique of the unchecked commercialism of capitalist society. The intention with this hardcover publication is to contrast the Kwakwaka'wakw economic and legal system of potlatching, which also functions as a way of maintaining and preserving oral history, again Western society's system of capitalism. The book references the Hamat'sa ceremony during potlatch, wherein the Hamat'sa cannibals' insatiable hunger and consumption is 'tamed' ritually through the dance. The power to control one's hunger is considered much greater than the power of hunger itself. This book works to critique the West's ravenous need to devour and consumer by presenting works that highlight this Kwakwaka'wakw worldview. 

Additional Information
96 pages | 8.00" x 9.00" 


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Authentic Indigenous Artwork


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