For millennia salmon has been our lifeblood, touching every community with it’s nutrition. This has been a hard summer. The fish have been scarce all over Alaska with the exception of Bristol Bay. We hope that our salmon are not disappearing and that this summer was just an off year. Our salmon have to contend with many obstacles to make it home to our streams: warming waters, hazardous wastes, plastics, pollution, and becoming by-catch of fishermen fishing for other species. Once they get here, we make sure the escapement for spawning is sufficient for future years. Our subsistence foods feed our physical nutritional needs, but also fill our cultural needs; one is just as important as the other. (Turn the sound down…that is just our constant wind drowning out the sound of splashing salmon.)
If, by chance, you are in Anchorage anytime between now and January 20, 2019, take some time to visit the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center to view this exquisite exhibition.
If you are there on October 11th, we will all be there, too. Stop by to meet the one and only Gert Svarny and her family of artists. Special reception, open to the public, begins at 6:30 pm and ends at 8:00 pm. Hope to see some of you there. You won’t regret it!
While I have been working on taking photographs of all the artwork that will be going into a show this coming fall, I have been surprised by the sheer volume of work that my mother and her family of artist’s have at their fingertips. This piece, an Unangan drum, made by my mother for my daughter, shows Gert’s brilliant workmanship; each component of this musical instrument is a work of art in and of itself. The drum consists of a piece of bent wood to form the drum head. The drum handle, ingeniously attached, was crafted from wood and ivory. The drum, itself, is a piece of worked goat hide, placed on the drumhead in such a way that the skin can be adjusted to accomodate humidity, thus keeping the tone that you want. The drum stick was made from a searched out piece of driftwood, covered by a piece of soft leather. The paint for the drum is red ochre, made by grinding the stone and mixing it with a medium. Brachiopods, collected from our beaches, decorate the handle and add their own sound. The design on the skin is a traditional Unangan design. The smudges on the skin were made by my daughter as this is a drum that is used for singing in Unangam tunuu and dancing our history.