A bit of culture

Trip Start Sep 23, 2009
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Trip End Oct 09, 2009


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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We awoke to a cool, crisp morning. The bright autumn sun made the white boats at the dock almost blinding as the light reflected on their decks and hulls.  It was a travel day, but we decided to take the lunchtime ferry back to Port McNeill, and spend the morning at the 'Umista Cultural Centre.

The U'mista cultural centre was fascinating.  Its raison d'etre was to house a collection of articles which were taken away from Alert Bay as part of the suppression of potlatch celebrations in the 1920's.  The items were given to museums and private collectors for safe keeping.  The law was eventually deleted, but not repealed, and for many tribes, the potlatch articles remain lost.  The Museum of Man agreed to return their share of the objects from Alert Bay, on the condition that a museum would be constructed to house them.

The resulting collection was astonishing, comprising costumes, coppers and instruments.  Further donations had been made, of jewellery, blankets, totems and boxes, which sat alongside gifts of more modern artworks.  The collection largely avoided glass cases.  The 'Namgis First Nation felt that the things had been hidden away and locked up for too long and needed to be part of life again.  So we investigated ingenious transforming masks and dramatic costumes, and tried to picture what the potlatch must have been like, held in a great house filled with noise, smoke and mystery. 

The curator made us sit down to watch the video about the creation of the museum.  It started off well but then our interest in the documentary wained, and the arrival time of our ferry was approaching.  We felt like naughty kids as we skipped class, and instead watched a river otter hunting in the glistening sea. 

We retyurned to Vancouver Island, and drove to Courtenay.  We spent the evening with Jim's mum, and had a great dinner of salmon at Comox, with more delicious local wines.  Jim's mum shared some of her own very tasty brew with us, and we spent an enjoyable evening swapping travel stories and sharing photos.

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