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The Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

March 25th, 2012 (05:24 pm)

Before I go on holiday, I always do a bit of Googling to see if there will be any special events taking place when I'm there -- there's generally an interesting talk or two at the Vancouver Public Library -- and, this year, there was a dance festival at the Museum of Anthropology.

I went early to get a good seat. Unfortunately, I didn't know that the clocks had gone forward during the night, so I got there a bit late, and I had to sit right at the back and to the side. Plus, my poor old camera had problems with the combination of huge, bright windows and brilliant white concrete in the Great Hall, and with the low lighting levels (to protect the artefacts) in the rest of the building. And... having lost the key to my locker whilst I was looking round, I spent a good portion of the visit a state of panic, because nobody seemed to know what to do, but -- eventually -- one of the security guys managed to get the door open (and he didn't even fine me for losing the key ;-)

As a result, this post -- as they used to say on Sesame Street -- is brought to you by some very murky photos, some Googling, and a lot of struggling with MOA's crazy online catalogue.

These are the Kwe Unglis Haida Dancers:

Even if I'd been right at the front, the picture wouldn't have done them justice, because the dances are about the flow of movement and about the songs they're danced to, and it's impossible to listen to the voices and the drumming and not find yourself 'joining in' by tapping your feet or even by just imagining yourself moving.

We were told that this little boy had begun drumming when he was only six years old!

These are dancers from some of the other groups, waiting for their turn:

The objects at the front of the next picture are feast dishes, which -- according to the online catalogue -- would have been used primarily to hold food served to guests at winter dance ceremonies and potlatches, as well as on other important social occasions. They also were symbols of wealth and prestige. The figures represented on feast dishes were family crests and important feast dishes were named. They're about 6 feet long:

This is the head of the middle feast dish. It represents a beaver:

And I cheated a bit by finding a better picture of this feast dish in the online catalogue -- I love his streamlined head and body, flippers, teeth, and tiny eyes:

The next picture shows a feast dish lid. The carvings used were usually mythical beings associated with the history of the family who had the right to use representations of them as family crests.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the next object is -- I've typed every keyword I can think of into the online catalogue, including 'wheels' and 'tongue', but haven't found it :-(

This wonderful creature is a sea wolf:

The sculptor was a very well-known Haida artist, Bill Reid. The sea wolf, Wasco, is a giant sea monster, half wolf and half killer whale that had the ability to move on both land and in the sea. Wasco hunts and eats killer whales. In past times, Wasco was known to terrorize Haida villages along the coast of Haida Gwaii.

The poles in the next picture once stood against the front wall of a house called 'Plenty of Tliman Hides in This House', a structure belonging to the family of the clan of 'Those Born at Gadasgo Creek', of the Raven moiety:

The animal at the front is a grizzly bear, behind him is a cormorant, and behind him, an eagle.

The Coast Salish artist who created this panel, John Marston, had travelled to Papua New Guinea, and met and been inspired by an artist there (called Teddy Balangu):

I wonder if the swirls represent facial tattoos?

My photograph of this wooden rattle didn't come out, so this is another picture from the online catalogue, but even this doesn't show the sheer joie de vivre on the sea otter's little face as he zooms along on the bird's back!

Of course, I had to go searching for some Egyptian artefacts:

This seems to be Akhenaten (with his typical elongated head, extended lower jaw, and long neck with two creases), bathed in the rays of the Aten (ending in little hands), but there's something about it that doesn't seem quite right to my expert eye, LOL.

Finally, of all the objects, I think that this one is my absolute favourite:

Here's a much clearer picture from the catalogue:

It's a suit of armour from Micronesia. It's woven from jute, and is apparently thick enough to stop a musket ball; the breastplate is made from stingray skin -- up close, it looks sharp, like a sheet of barnacles; and the sword blade is made from shark teeth!


Posted by: Nebride - Bishie Hunter (nebride)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)

This is absolutely fascinating! I didn't see anything lacking in your photos - they were wonderful. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be up close to these artifacts. You really know how to take a proper vacation and get in the right type of sight seeing. This looks like so much fun - and the memories are something you'll always treasure.

Someday - if I ever get my wish of moving to Oregon, I'd love to meet you in Vancouver. I know you go there every year, and I'd so love to tour around with you. Right now it's just too far to travel with our current financial situation. But I can dream and hope.

Thanks for sharing the photos and the explanations.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)

Thank you :-)

Yes, for me, a holiday means museums, films, concerts and book shops! Oh, and restaurants!

I'd love to meet you in Vancouver

That would be wonderful!

TBH, Vancouver cost much more this year than it has in the past, so I'm already trying to work out how I'm going to manage it next year. We both need to write bestsellers. Or even decent sellers :-)

Posted by: Ree (reetinkerbell)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
Art Nouveau

First of all, I think the photos that you have are fantastic (I can't be sure of how many you took though and what the rest look like, but you should be proud to show of these).

Second of all, man, it sounds like a wonderful festival, both interesting and beautiful. I would've loved to visit the museum myself (if I ever go to Vancover!) and I'm glad you found out about it and was able to go there.

Third; I thought Canada moved their clocks two weeks ago, when US did, because I didn't think it was connected to them belonging to the Common Wealth, but their geographical placement in the world. Either way, I thought you moved the clock forward from Sunday and not to it, so I ended up missing a favourite tv show because of it.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)

Thank you! I did take a lot more that were... well, basically abstracts :-)

It was a very enjoyable festival, and the museum itself is wonderful, with artefacts from all over the world. But it's one of those places where you need to be very fit and healthy, because there's something really tiring about peering into glass cases!

Yes, Canada did change their clocks two weeks ago -- I'm actually home now, and it's taken me that long to post the pictures! In the UK we changed our clocks today. I'd forgotten, but I always have my radio on at home so I realised the moment I woke up.

Did you think the clocks changed early Monday morning?

Posted by: Ree (reetinkerbell)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
Balloons Fullest

I have a few of those. What type of camera to you have? I'm so obsessive, I usually take several photos of the same thing if I really want to have a good photo of it (I also check if the photo was good or not, so I don't have to do it all the time!) and from different angles. I can easily take 500 photos in one day when I'm being a tourist. It's a bit mad.

Is it a big place? I saw from another comment too that you visit Canada a lot (once a year?). Can I ask why Canada?

We changed our clocks now as well (I think most of Europe does?). I don't really know what I thought, but in my calendar, it says that today is the day "summer time starts" and I somehow took that to mean from Sunday (or on Sunday) and not to Sunday. Even though technically, it did change on Sunday since it changes at midnight. Anyway. I heard it on the radio too, and my computer and cell phone changes automatically - and my clock radio has some sort of bug, so while the radio works, the clock does not (it keeps blinking 00.00 even when I reset it) but I didn't check my cell before the tv program, but saw the clock in the kitchen when I was making tea and it has to be reset manually, and it hadn't been yet.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 26th, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC)

My camera won't store more than about 150 photos, and I often run out of space. I download them to my laptop at night and sort through them.

The museum isn't physically large, but the smaller objects are in accessible storage, so you can easily spend a whole day 'rummaging' through them. Plus, there are reconstructed houses outside, with house poles and burial poles, set on a 'shoreline' made from coloured gravels. And there's a cafe if you get hungry & a shop...

[When you come to England, btw, there's a similar museum in Norwich (not very far from Cambridge) called The Sainsbury Centre.]

I started going to Vancouver because I'd begun supporting the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. It's an exciting place, with lots going on, and I really feel at home there, so I've got into the habit of going every year, though it gets more expensive every time I go.

I hate the hour change. It always causes trouble!

Posted by: Ree (reetinkerbell)
Posted at: March 27th, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
Art Nouveau - Alfons Mucha

You only have the camera memory? I couldn't do without my memory cards, but as I said, I take a lot of photos.

It sounds like a lovely museum, especially with the grounds outside.

The time we will spend in Cambridge is not really my own, but it is a great suggestion and if we have the chance, I will certainly mention it. Thank you.

That's really kind of cool, that you started going half across the world (for a week?) for a team like that. Do you stay with friends or in a hotel while you're away?

It really does! I remember one year I was so lazy about putting my alarm clock back one hour that I just left it for so long that I got used to it saying it was one hour ahead; so used to it, that when we then had to move the clocks forward, I moved it forward as well, just so I could still be one hour ahead.

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
Cheshire Cat goes Whee!

The dancing must have been fascinating. I think my very favourite of all the artefacts you show is actually the wee train with the long tongue.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 26th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)

It's strange, isn't it? I wish I could find it in the catalogue. It would be interesting to know when it was made.

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: March 26th, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)

Thanks for sharing those. What fascinating pictures.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 26th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you liked them!

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