Aboriginal Artistic Interpretations- Exploring Connection, Disconnection and Transformation

Dancers. Jan. 2010
Dancers. Jan. 2010

We cycled up to the Museum of Anthrolopology (MOA), University of British Columbia on the day it reopened after its $55 million expansion and retrofit. During that weekend celebration, there was free museum admission and a series of aboriginal dance performances by each of the four First Nations groups that cover the land of Metro Vancouver and Whistler. First Nations bands are: Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waluth

Over the past 8 years, I have been to MOA twice and on average cycle by it more than twice per week in past few years. By then, I am usually whipping

Raven and First Men. By Bill Reid.
Raven and First Men. By Bill Reid. Story on the birth of mankind. Raven tries to coax men out of clamshell found on beach.

down the sweeping hill past MOA. After living here for awhile, many Vancouverites do have a tendency to become immune to certain unique cultural  richness in our area.  While shooting these photos, I was reminded of what we may take for granted.

Just a week before this event, the Russian ice skating dance pair, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin won the European figure skating championships with their controversial aborigine dance number. It caused discussion

Salmon sculpture water fountain. MOA, UBC.
Salmon sculpture water fountain. Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

among aborigines in the Australian arts community  and also among various First Nations leaders.

Though to me, the ice dance number was technically excellent, I was puzzled by the ‘story ‘ of the dance.  In contrast, the dance performances at  MOA, the atmosphere there was energizing. Dance leaders and dancers clearly wanted to be there to perform and said so. Their pride was palpable for the significance of the day, the opportunity to showcase aboriginal pride and culture on a world stage during the Olympics and they clearly expressed it.

Light box exhibit. Becomes transformed to light and memory.
Light box exhibit. Becomes transformed to light and memory. See next photo below.

Though the First Nations leaders wish meet the figure skater duo, it remains to be seen if the duo will choose to perform the same dance number. On how the aboriginal communities present themselves, here is what one First Nations Chief, Chief Joseph said:

 “The images that flood the mass media typically depict Canada’s native population as being the victims of housing or health-care crises and show them struggling with poverty or hidden behind masks in confrontation with authorities.e images that flood the mass media typically depict Canada’s native population as being the victims of housing or health-care crises and show them struggling with poverty or hidden behind masks in confrontation with authorities.”   But headed into the 2010 Olympics the Four Host First Nations have released a new video they hope will recast the face of Canada’s aboriginal cultures and inspire a whole generation of young people.“I hope it will make not just First Nations proud – I hope it will make all Canadians proud,” said Tewanee Joseph, CEO of the Four Host First Nations.

Box becomes a votive-like light box. Reflection on memory and legacy. Jan. 2010.
Box becomes a votive-like light box. Reflection on memory and legacy. Jan. 2010.

The video – a rapid montage propelled by a percussive, driving beat – shows native people in a very different way than Canadians are used to seeing them. All the images are positive, dynamic and upbeat.

“I want straight emotion and inspiration for three minutes. And I want to break stereotypes,” was the way Mr. Joseph put it when he first outlined the project to the video production team.”

You be the judge.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Nádja&Jos says:

    Mass media tend to focus on problematic themes. It is good that we now have social media and blogs, like yours, to expand our knowledge. So far I find your posts enriching and educational.

    Like

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