Vance Conway Jr.

Vance Conway Jr.

Saxons land in Alert Bay

ALERT BAY – Visitors to U'mista Cultural Centre this summer will see artifacts from the Saxon Court on exhibit among the potlatch regalia. And in Dresden, Germany the Saxon Court collection has added some potlatch regalia to their displays.

ALERT BAY – Visitors to U’mista Cultural Centre this summer will see artifacts from the Saxon Court on exhibit among the potlatch regalia. And in Dresden, Germany the Saxon Court collection has added some potlatch regalia to their displays.

The visiting exhibit was unveiled April 21 in Alert Bay. The Dresden show opens May 6.

“Exchanging of gifts is an important part of the potlatch tradition,” says Chief Bill Cranmer, Chief of the ‘Namgis and Chair of the Board of Directors for the U’Mista Cultural Society. “We are pleased to be able to extend that tradition with the German people and exchange with them cherished items from our collection, while welcoming the gifts exchanged by their people hundreds of years ago.”

More than 60 objects from the U’mista Cultural Centre’s potlatch collection are on display in Dresden, Germany, while a selection of diplomatic, personal and princely gifts and decorative objects from the Saxon Sovereign Court in Dresden are on display at the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the people of Alert Bay and those who come here this summer,” said Sarah Elizabeth Holland, executive director of the U’mista Cultural Centre. “Visitors will not only get to see our powerful and unparalleled Kwakwaka’wakw collections, they’ll also see a world-class exhibit from one of Europe’s most prestigious museum collections with pieces dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.”

This exhibition will be the first time most of the potlatch collection will be displayed outside Canada. U’mista’s Potlatch collection is made up of regalia confiscated after an illegal potlatch in 1921.  Potlatch ceremonies were banned in Canada between 1885 and 1951. By the time the ban was lifted, many of the confiscated items had been distributed amongst various museums and private collectors. Most have been successfully located and returned to the community. Now some of those items will be on display in Germany as part of this exchange.

A selection of diplomatic, personal and princely gifts and decorative objects from the Saxon Sovereign Court in Dresden will be in Alert Bay. Artifacts include items from the Kunstkammer (Art Cabinet), ceremonial weapons and tournament pieces from the Rüstkammer (Armoury), and vessels and figurines from the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) and Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection).  These objects are representative of  the splendid court festivities and the royal hunts of the Saxon rulers during the early modern periods dating from around 1560 to 1760.

The simultaneous exhibits will be on display until August 28