House Post (RBCM 1858)

Remains of big house with house poles and beams standing, some poles lying on the ground.

When Charles F. Newcombe photographed the post in situ at Xwamdasbe’ in May 1913, only the structural beams of the big house remained.  A European-style house with a window can be seen in the background. PN 632.

People standing on a boardwalk with the village houses on the right.

The house post would have been in a house like those shown in this 1901 view of Xwamdasbe’. Newcombe collection photograph, PN2335.

Colour pencil drawing of the house post and its dimensions by John Smyly.

Museum technician John Smyly sketched the house post and recorded details of its restoration.

Charles F. Newcombe purchased this house post at Xwamdasbe’ in 1913.  It depicts two legendary figures, the Moon and Dzunuḱwa—the Wild Woman of the Woods, a giantess who is often depicted with a basket on her back into which she places children that she has stolen and intends to eat.

At the First Peoples Festival in Victoria in 1994, elder Emma Hunt told a story about Dzunuḱwa, with an additional moral:

In the old days they always told us about the Wild Woman of the Woods, a great big tall woman, all black, with pouching lips. Symbolizes the wind, they say. And it always goes out to steal children, out in the forest, to try and eat them. But through the cunning of children they always got away. In one story I always remember, they used to tell us never make fun of another child that doesn’t look normal. A little hair-lip boy—they wouldn’t play with him because he had a hair-lip, so he was just standing there watching them play down the beach. Then the little boy yelled, “There’s a big giant of a woman up in the forest!” So they all looked. “Oh, he just wants to play with us. Don’t pay any attention to him,” said the boys and girls playing down the beach. They started playing again, so he yelled again. Pretty soon the big, giant of a woman came and grabbed them. It always carried big baskets [to steal the children]. In the dances in the big house you see it, they carry big baskets and dance around in every corner of the big house to take children into their baskets and take them up into the forest. This little hair-lip boy was the first one to be put in the bag. All the rest followed. The little boy had a little mussel knife so he started cutting through the basket of the big giant woman. He made enough of a hole to fall out. All the rest of the kids fell out of the basket. The little hair-lip boy was the hero of the day. He got the kids home safe to their parents. And that was a lesson to us, to never make fun of a child who didn’t look like you.

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