Every now and then I get to missing Europe—history everywhere you look and the museums of Paris a mere train ride away. I’ll give the French this: they know how to show off a bit of art. Canada is relatively new by any cultural standard, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t riches to be found practically on my doorstep. Saturday past was a grey and damp day, so I hauled on my rubber boots and made the short trek to the Royal BC Museum for the first time. And again, by any cultural standard, it’s a humdinger.
There was a riveting National Geographic wildlife photography exhibit, lots of sea turtles and crocodiles and all that. There was a section where the streets of Ye Olde Victoria were recreated down to the the last meticulous detail. Then there was the third floor where one is greeted by a giant welcoming figure that graces the entrance to the First Peoples Gallery.
My new home is in the heart of the Songhees and Esquimalt territories, just two of the many indigenous peoples who were at home on the BC coast long before I or any of my kind set foot on the shore. The political complexities and tragedies (highlighted in the collection of heartbreaking details of the almost decimation of the Nations by smallpox and other blights from white ‘settlers’) are far beyond the scope of a goofy blog. All I want to say here is the museum is a sobering, fascinating, stunningly beautiful display of these great cultures.
I, too, put on my own stunning display. It seems my tendency toward cultural gaffes has followed me from France. I was so mesmerized by a collection of masks that I forgot what separates treasures from wandering clods. I leaned in and head-butted the wall of glass hard enough to make a skull clanging DWONG!!! that frightened children and brought the packed gallery to a standstill and my mortified husband to a fit of laughter. I imagined all the ancient ancestors smiling down on me, pleased to welcome me to their land. Every village needs a idiot.