Keeping the Song Alive Exhibit Comes to U'mista

The U’mista Cultural Centre is pleased to host a new traveling exhibit Keeping the Song Alive.

Developed by the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, the temporary exhibit is open from June 15 to October 12, 2024 with the potential for an extension to December 12, 2024. Guest curated by Cheryl Kaka‘solas Wadhams and co-developed with the Jewish Museum & Archives of BC, Keeping the Song Alive shares the mostly unknown story of the decades-long work between ethnomusicologist Dr. Ida Halpern and the late Kwakwaka’wakw Chiefs Billy Assu and Mungo Martin to document hundreds of sacred and traditional songs that otherwise would have been erased due to the Potlatch Ban and suppression of Northwest Coast Indigenous culture.

Through a rich mix of traditional music and regalia, contemporary art, film, and historical documentation, Keeping the Song Alive celebrates a unique friendship, the spiritual power of music, and the beauty of preserving ceremonial art and culture for future generations.

For Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, songs are an essential part of cultural knowledge and ceremonial life, part of the rights and privileges of Chiefs that strengthen identity and lineage. The Big House is a place of belonging where songs, language, drumming, and dancing come together, and where the next generation is continuing these traditions in a good way.

“As a Jewish immigrant fleeing the Holocaust, Dr. Ida Halpern understood the impact of cultural erasure,” says Wadhams, Guest Curator, Keeping the Song Alive. “Assu and Martin trusted her as an ally to preserve and record songs fundamental to the Kwakwaka’wakw culture that would have been lost forever due to the Potlatch Ban. This exhibition reflects on the tremendous impacts of the Potlatch Ban, residential schools, and the Indian Act, and showcases the significant works by contemporary artists that have been inspired by these recordings.”

G̱ilakas’la Canadian Heritage, Museums Assistance Project, and Indigenous Heritage who funded the exhibition at U’mista.

Exhibition Details:
“Keeping the Song Alive”
Temporary Exhibit at the
U’mista Cultural Centre
On loan from the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

June 15 to October 12, 2024

Opening Reception
Saturday June 15

Everyone Welcome!

#1 Front Street, Alert Bay, BC
Open 7 days a week

Click here for hours and admission rates. Free to all members.

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