While Vancouver’s mosaic tiles may be semi-precious gems, the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus is a diamond, emerald and ruby all in one. Just as strolling through the city earlier this week yielded aha’s from our sidewalk mosaic discoveries, walking through the museum’s “Multiversity Galleries” gave us the opportunity to unearth many treasures by simply pulling open the drawers in cabinets found under the displays.
Three different exhibits tell the story of exchanges between Native Northwest Coast artists and artists far away. The Multiversity Galleries contain Northwest Coast masks, totem poles, baskets, sculptures, tools, and weavings; but as part of the museum’s emphasis on cultural sharing, it also displays similar pieces from around the world. Among thousands of objects, we saw Chinese robes and pottery, a Tibetan mandala, African body maps, and a Japanese kimono.
Just inside the entrance to the museum is a stunning, two-sided carving of the sun and moon, with one heavenly body carved by a local artisan and the other by a New Guinean. Another exhibit, “Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration,” contains examples of Japanese-style woodblock prints created by Canadian artist James Houston and Inuit lithographs that were inspired by Houston’s work.
The last exchange was more personal than artistic. Text, photos, and objects told the story of a “reconciliation ceremony on the island of Erromango in the South Pacific Republic of Vanuato.” In 1817, two English missionaries, mistaken for traders with evil intentions, were murdered on Erromango. In 2006, one of the missionary’s relatives donated artifacts to the museum that once belonged to the missionary. This led to a discussion of a possible reconciliation between descendants of both the missionary and his killers, which came about three years later. The ceremony consisted of presentations, the giving of gifts, a re-enactment of the event, apologies, and the “giving of a child to the missionary’s family.” (I believe the family members were becoming godparents “responsible for the education and well-being of the child,” and not taking her home as their own, though I can’t be sure.)
This ceremony may be appropriate for all kinds of situations for which people feel remorse, for example, for accidentally taking a life. It should be performed more often, not just on remote Pacific Islands, but right here at home. It might also be useful for the U.S. Congress to hold after failing for so long to reach agreement about the debt limit. The purpose of the ceremony would be to reconcile their bad behavior with the higher expectations of the American public. Never mind. I realize that I said the ceremony would be for people who feel remorse.