Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Nansemond Indians Pow Wow

The Nansemond Indian Tribe’s Pow Wow took place 8/15-16/2015.  This is an annual event that takes place in Mattanock Town, the home of the tribe that is programmed to become the tribe’s tourist attraction in land formerly occupied by the Lone Star Lakes Park in Suffolk County.  It was recently ceded to the tribe as their ancestral lands and it covers about 70 acres.  This was the 27th annual Pow Wow and participants represent tribes from all over the country; some return yearly.  That is a reason for the variety of outfits seen at the reunion. 

The Nansemond Indian trace their ancestry back to the 1600’s and was part of the Powhatan confederacy that played a major role in the first encounter with the English colonizers in Jamestown.  The tribe did not fare well in their encounter with the colonizers who robbed their crops and destroyed their burial grounds and villages.  The tribe was recognized by the state of Virginia in 1984.

This celebration includes an opportunity for the members to show up in tribal regalia that are at times exuberant and colorful.  As you can see from the materials used, the outfits incorporate modern materials and free interpretation of original attires.  The women’s outfits are the most elaborate and are mostly designed and made by the users.  Considerable time and money, not to mention the pride of the users, have been spent on their designs.  Although there is not an open contest to identify a best outfit, it is obvious that one is present based on the participants eyeing the others outfits to prepare for the next year’s Pow Wow.  It is probable that these costumes may not be seen again next year.

Men’s attire is not as elaborate generally although some are at the level of complexity of those of the women.  They varied from just simple plain clothing to full chief and warrior regalia. Weapons are part of the men’s outfits in a variety of forms from tomahawks, to bow and arrows as well as fancy knives and shields, not to mention the rear turkey feather tails; these are worn by the most feared warriors and varied in size according to their war heroics.

 Dances are performed by tribal members of all ages and have different names such as slow, fast, chicken, war, women’s traditional dance and others.  All have in common dancing around in a circle accompanied by the monotonous drum beats and chants.  Some are extremely fast where the quality of the dancers is judged by their speed.  But regardless of the dance when it was over, the exhausted participants ran for a shady tent and a bottle of water and disposed of some of cumbersome outfits.

This Pow Wow takes place in August and I wonder why not in October in line with harvest of corn and other staples when the weather is cooler. Visitors will not have to seek the shade of a tree to add some comfort, and us photographers, will not have to deal with the harsh light conditions of a summer afternoon.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ireland II

Departing Belfast and following the coastal road counterclockwise, I arrived at Carrickfergus castle.   This place has historical significant since it is where various battles during the Nine Years War took place and where King William landed in Ireland.  But most interesting, John Paul Jones, the American Naval Hero of the war of Independence, aboard the Ranger, captured the HMS Drake offshore; the first American victory in British waters. Further up the road I passed by the Londonderry Arms hotel in Carnough, once owned by Winston Churchill.

Continuing along the coastal road, are the famous geological formation known as the Giant’s Causeway.  Upon arriving at a big parking lot, one boards a bus and is driven to the Causeway.  It is very popular attraction and probable rates as high as Yellowstone in the USA; both have the same geological basaltic formations, the result of volcanic activity except that in Ireland, these are at the seashore. Some rare plant species grow around the rocks as seen in the last image below.  Impressed?  Well, I was expecting something bigger.

 Derry or Londonderry, depending on what part are you in the political divide is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and witnessed the “The Troubles.”  Old signs of the struggles are all over the city the depicting the historical events of the late 1990’s.  Bu there are also newer happy ones replacing the old ones.  Wounds of those days are still visible in the statue of Queen Victoria in the Guildhouse who lost her hands due to a bomb placed there.

Derry is an interesting city with lots of beautiful buildings and as other places in Ireland, no overcrowded or impaired by heavy traffic.  They had done a great job of mixing the old with the new as in the Tower Theater below. Derry boast to have the only complete medieval walls of a city in Ireland and England…well…I had walked the walls in York and do not recall a break in the continuity of the walls And as with more cities in Ireland, there is always a monument to the fallen during the numerous wars of the British Empire; in this case in honor of the veterans of WWI.

Not far from Derry, is the Ulster American Folk Park that documents the Irish migrations to the United States. The buildings reflect exhibit the influence of the Irish migration to the United States.  The park is located in a farm that was owned by the ancestors of the famous Mellon family that migrated to Pennsylvania.

Some of the structures in the park were dismantled in the USA and rebuilt here, such as the interiors of a Virginia store, a stone house from Pennsylvania and a brick house from Tennessee.  There are also old Irish buildings that were moved here from Belfast.  One of the buildings is an old photography studio that is still used for visitors have the opportunity to dress and pose as settlers.  With much patience, the photographer was able to obtain a family photo.  Little did they know that it was to find its way to the web.

On interesting item I observed was an outside metal rigging with a central geared wheel.  At the end of the long pole a horse was attached that powered the rig. The geared wheel was connected to a metal rod that transmitted the rotations to the inside of a nearby house where grinding wheels were rotated to grind grains.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ireland's Belfast

 Ireland has been on my itinerary for a long time and I finally got there.  This trip will be split in several sections due to the extensive travel throughout the island.  There are two countries here,  The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is still part of the British Empire.  The history is complicated and it took me a while to figure it out but I may be wrong. When the English conquered Ireland, the Irish became indentured servants and were not allowed to own land.  The English Lords moved in and developed their estates.  The civil wars started and the Republic of Ireland gained its independence in 1922 from England  just as the USA about 240 years earlier. Similarly the northern borders of the liberated countries in this case, Northern Ireland and Canada, remained part as part of the English Commonwealth.
 Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland and at one time was an industrial and economic power that faded with the British Empire by the end of WWII.  Its name has nothing to do with breakfast but it means “Mouth of the River”.  It has a magnificent City Hall completed in 1906, with a park full of statues and the inner halls preserving the greatness of the past.  It is readily accessible and open to the public and the grassy areas are full of life - particularly at lunch time when the office workers come to enjoy their lunches - with vendors and itinerant musicians.  Surprisingly I did not see street people living in the park. There are numerous stained windows but the one shown attracted my attention because of its content; it depicts various episodes in its history such as the heavy bombing during WWII and maritime heritage.  Being a working City Hall, there were various wedding parties celebrating the events…little did they know that there were going to be caught by paparazzi.

 The city is modern and clean with the traditional botanical gardens, museums and university.  The botanical gardens include the domed glass Palm House built in 1849 is unique in having a cold wing and a hot wing where the dome is located. You never know who you are going to run into - a statue of Lord Kelvin is also on the grounds.

 The Ulster Museum was renovated in 2009 combining multiple collections of biological, geological anthropological  as well as historical artifacts located at various levels with a central atrium looking down into the entry level.  It has modernistic sculptures but most interesting at the time of the visit, a display of Viking Deadly Dragons that attracted children as if they were ice cream. The last image is that of the Belfast University where all the stories of dragons, witches and leprechauns are delegated to myths.  The museum layout is different but worth visiting.

 Walking downtown one encounters the grotesque as well as the unusual.   Imagine running into Medicare here…nostalgia of home. A giant quilt covering the facade of a sewing schools and multitude of pubs.  Surprisingly traffic is heavy and the streets are busy.  Belfast seems to be undergoing an economic rebirth.

 Belfast economic power originated with the linen trade and at one time produced most of the linen and the maritime ropes used by the shipping industry worldwide.  Shipbuilding was a major industry at the beginning of the XX Century, and when the Titanic was launched in 1912, it had the largest shipyard in the world.  There was also airplane manufacturing that contributed to the war effort during the WWII.  The Titanic Museum (below) has a very modernistic building that seems to follow the lines of the famous ship.  I hesitantly went into the museum and was pleasantly surprised.  It mostly deals with the construction of the ship with lots of trivia; for example, 3 million fasteners of 6 different types in fastening the hull steel plates.  There is a suspended ride that takes you through the different stages of construction of the ship - all well done.

 Recent history of the city deal with the “Troubles”, the result of the divisions in Northern Ireland between religious groups that has been quiet recently.  But tension can still be seen in the graffiti in some sectors of the city.  Below is a partial photograph of the “Peace Walls”.  Suggest you refer to the history of the “Troubles” on the internet. The last photo is that of the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont.

I will continue this blog covering my travels along the coastal roads on the island moving counter clockwise.