Monday, February 25, 2008

Museum of Anthropology at UBC -- Part II

As you approach the entrance to the Museum of Anthropology which I wrote about previously, you are greeted by the figure below, carved in 1997 by Susan Point, an internationally renowned native artist of the Musqueam band, on whose traditional land the Museum is built.

Imich Siiyem - Welcome to good people

The collections at the MOA comprise many objects from the First Nations (or native) cultures of British Columbia. Since most of these are composed of wood they deteriorate over time and many fine pieces have been collected here in an effort to preserve them.

Haida Totem pole fragments

You may remember the soaring glass windows of this building in my previous post and they form the outer wall of the Great Hall, where there are some magnificent examples in red cedar of large totem poles and house poles which held the beams of the structures.

Sun streaming through the full length windows
into the Great Hall

Close-up of the house post with built-in
seat, seen above at the end of the hall

Detail of figure holding up the seat

Potlaches which are ceremonial gathering involving feasts require large vessels for the food and below are some examples of very fine feast dishes as they are called, along with assorted storage boxes.

Ornately carved feast dishes

Haida Bear, large sculpture carved by Bill Reid
in 1963, standing in the Great Hall

Bentwood boxes were used for many purposes by First Nations people. As well as for storage they served as drums and cradles and even coffins. They are made from a single plank of cedar wood which is notched for three corners. After steaming until pliable the plank is then carefully bent into a box. The fourth corner is sewn with cedar roots or pegged, with the bottom attached in the same manner.

This fine Haida bentwood box dates around 1870

Weaving was a traditional craft of the Musqueam and other coastal communities for thousands of years until around 1900 when it died out as a craft with the Musqueam. However around 1984 it was revived and this spectacular blanket was woven for the Museum by Debra and Robyn Sparrow in 1999.

Contemporary woven blanket

Of course the highlight for me in this museum is the monumental Bill Reid sculpture, the Raven and the First Men which naturally I considered deserving of its own post. There is an excellent gift store in the Museum where you can buy many small items and books plus some very fine modern art pieces.

$1150 will buy you this very powerful Cannibal Mask by Rupert Scow

Thank you for making it to the end of this very long post about a museum of which I am very fond, so much so that I have an annual membership and can visit whenever I wish.


Smalltown RN said...

Oh I do love all your photos....I was saying to hubby after looking at your post from Saturday how much I want to go to the museum again...he has never been....I think when our boys come out in the summer that is somewhere we will take them...thank you for reminding me of this treasure..

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

The figure holding up the seat's pretty frightening.

Eurodog said...

Thank you for this post, jmb. Very interesting indeed.

Janice Thomson said...

My husband and I received a Bentwood box from a tribal chief who was also a close friend. The box is absolutely exquisite and I was delighted to be able to meet the artist a few weeks later. Our friend Joe spent a lot of time in Ottawa as he was the intermediary between all the BC First Nations and the government. His own people live up by Babine Lake.
Love the house-post figure - such lovely detailed work. Really enjoyed this tour JMB!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Enjoyed this tour immensely. Thanks.

Helge Mikkelsen said...

Thank you for an interestin post - again, and thank you again for the postcards.
I wish to tell you that here in Bergen we have a totempole that was a gift from the friendshiptown in USA Seattle.

Ian Lidster said...

A fabulous tour. I've been through it, but delighted in the re-visit and your words.

Ellee Seymour said...

What beautiful carvings and workmanship, I wish I had that kind of talent.

Tai said...

That bear...I love that bear. I would often go specifically to see him.

(Lovely post, great pictures and a wonderful commentary.)

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

It's interesting that the totem pole is seen as such an iconic First Nations symbol, even though it is rstricted, in fact, to the Pacific Coast.
As far as I'm aware (though I could be wrong), no culture existed which had both tipis AND toem poles, yet this is the common image of First Nations peoples.

$1150 is a lot to pay to disguise oneself as a cannibal.

Carver said...

I enjoyed your overview of the museum. It is always a pleasure to read one of your guided tour posts and they seem very succinct to me, not long at all. The photographs you took are so well presented. I liked the detail of the figure holding up the seat.

jmb said...

Hi Mary Anne,
I'm glad you like the museum posts. I'm sure your boys would love to visit, it's a very friendly museum, you can touch thing, gently, and open all the wonderful drawers and there is a lot of space, inside and around it.

Hi James,
I am so used to this style of art that I forget that they are so frightening. I wonder if they give children nightmares.

Hi Eurodog,
I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I love this museum.

Hi Janice,
How wonderful for you to have a Bentwood box and to meet the artist. This museum is a special place and I am glad you enjoyed it.

I'm sure you were happy to see some more of the native culture of this area as I know you are interested.

Hi Helge,
I'm glad you enjoyed the post and the postcards and I see you are making good use of them on your blog. How nice that you have a totem pole there too.

Hi Ian,
I can visit this museum often, since I like it so much and it is not far from my house.

Hi Ellee,
I wish I had any artistic talent but I would like to work in wood since I love the smell of it.

Hi Tai,
The bear is great isn't it? And you can touch it, gently, it's welcomed.

Hi Crushed,
well totem poles are very specific to the Pacific Northwest Coast, because of all the trees I guess. Plus they are permanent structures and not suited to nomadic people. The first nations here also built permanent wooden houses.

I think tipis were used by the North american indians of the plains since they were nomadic and they followed the herds.

Hi Carver,
Thanks for your kind words. It was fun to do but as you know it takes a lot of manipulation of the photos to get them ready and upload them.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fab pics, as always, jmb. If I lived there, I'd want to visit all the time too!

Josie said...

Gosh, JMB, your photos really do justice to these beautiful pieces. It just occurred to me, I have never been to the museum on a sunny day. I will have to go when the sun is streaming in like that. Everything looks so wonderful.

When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, my parents knew a lot of carvers and artisans, and we had several lovely pieces in our home. But when my parents moved to Victoria, they donated all their stuff to the museum there. I took the pieces for granted when I was a child, and now I can appreciate how beautiful they were.

I think the next time the Munchkins come to visit, that is where I am going to take them. Thank you!

Liz said...

Those are some wonderful carvings but the bentwood box is amazing! What skill and patience that must take.

How strange that weaving died out. Was there a reason for it?

Thank you, jmb, for a lovely tour.

Anonymous said...

It wasnt that long a post Ms JMB! It looks like a really strange and fascinating place.

jams o donnell said...

THose are amazing pieces jmb. THanks for sharing