Haidas take the UK by storm

  • Oct. 2, 2009 10:00 a.m.

Submitted by Lucy Bell-The Haida delegation has been visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum’s amazing Haida collections for the past two weeks. This is the first time the Pitt Rivers Museum has had such an extensive research project. The museum came to life as the artists danced, sang, prayed and brought the ancient masks, gambling sticks, boxes, bowls, blankets and hats to life. It was a great opportunity for carvers to measure paddles, masks and rattles and weavers to study the ancient weaving techniques.The museum hosted “A Haida Happening” where 2,000 visitors watched the Haidas dance and do weaving, carving, drawing demonstrations and talks. The group was also treated to a Curators’ Conference where curators from all over the UK presented slides on their Haida collections. The group had a chance to comment on the Haida pieces in the slide show and begin an ongoing dialogue with these museums.This week the delegation is studying the treasures at the British Museum and is being hosted by the Canadian Embassy. They will return this weekend, probably wishing for fresh air, family and fish!The project will continue as the artists host a slide-show presentation in October to share the collection with the community. Some delegates are compiling a photo book with Haida phrases. The museum staff and the Haidas will also write a book together that will feature the process, ideas generated and the ancient collections. Next summer, museum staff including Cara Krmpotch and her new baby will visit Haida Gwaii to work on the book and follow up on the project. The project will also live on as Haidas create new works inspired by the collection. Dancers are already talking about commissioning masks and rattles. Regalia-makers want to make new blankets and hats inspired by our talented ancestors. The young carvers wish to replicate one of the ancient bentwood boxes.Another trip will take place in the future as the Oxford University Board reviews our request to repatriate the ancestor in their collection. The UK museums are not known for their repatriation efforts, but we believe that by building our relationship with them, we will someday be able to lay our ancestors to rest.

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