Monthly Archives: December 2018

Mummering With A Great Canadian Artist

The Mummers Song written by Bud Davidge and illustrated by Ian Wallace

I learned about mummering from this children’s book which I shared with my class every year when I was an elementary school teacher.  It told the story of Newfoundland folks dressing up in disguise during the Christmas holidays and going to the homes of friends and family.

Illustration by Ian Wallace from The Mummers’ Song

Once the identity of the costumed guests had been ascertained they were invited to stay a while to sing and dance and eat and visit. The mummers disguised themselves with what was on hand at home, often stuffing their pants with pillows, wearing big hats and putting lace curtains or table cloths over their faces. 

Lone Mummer with Cat by David Blackwood 1987

A new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery featuring Newfoundland artist David Blackwood includes several beautiful prints of mummers. Mummering is thought to be an ancient tradition from England or Ireland.  In the late 1800s it was actually banned and made illegal in Newfoundland because of the drunkenness and violence that was often associated with the custom.

In the 1980s mummering started making a comeback when two Newfoundland singers Bud Davidge and Sim Savory recorded a song about mummering that became popular.  Perhaps David Blackwoods’ etchings of mummers created in the 1980s also helped to revive the custom. In 2009 the city of St. John’s began an annual December Mummers Parade that still draws hundreds of costumed Newfoundlanders into the streets for a celebration.

Beautiful Young Mummer in Margaret Feltham’s House by David Blackwood 1985

In an article called At Home and Away Dr. Diane Tye a professor in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland remarks on the haunting quality in David Blackwood’s mummer prints. His mummers look a bit like ghosts behind lace veils.

The Great Mummer by David Blackwood 1989

In a 2003 interview David Blackwood recalls going mummering himself when he was only five and at that age the disguised faces of the people around him did seem eerie and mysterious, particularly in the moonlight.  He says that mummers sometimes apologized for wrongs they had done when they visited or they might even deliver a marriage proposal.

Pound Cove Mummers Crossing Coal Harbour Pond by David Blackwood 1985

Dr. Tye says you can feel the cold of the Newfoundland winter nights in Blackwood’s prints. In many the mummers are solitary figures and if they are with others there appears to be no communication between them. Blackwood’s mummers are dark and mysterious. 

Mummering has become synonymous with Newfoundland as a fun folksy custom that attracts tourists and sells related souvenirs. David Blackwood’s prints offer us a slightly different view.  Check his mummers out for yourself at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this holiday season. 

Other posts……….

Finding An Old Friend

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Home Grown in Newfoundland




Filed under Art, Newfoundland, winnipeg art gallery

Chreaster Really is a Word

One year when we were living in Hong Kong we didn’t come home to Canada at Christmas time but decided to fly back at Easter instead because our son was going to have a leading role in a Winnipeg production of Jesus Christ Super Star and we really wanted to see him perform.  Since we hadn’t been here for Christmas we got together with our family for what I dubbed a Chreaster celebration.  We marked Christmas and Easter at the same time.  I gave the children and their partners both a stocking and an Easter basket filled with gifts.  I even wrote a newspaper column about our Chreaster celebrations. 


Poinsettia and Lily photo by Sandy Keeton from the blog of the Saint John XXIII Catholic Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio.

I thought I had invented the word Chreaster but to my surprise I saw it in the headline of an article in The Washington Post this past week.  The columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. refers to Chreasters as people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter.  

Dionne says probably the Chreasters show up at church on holidays because they enjoy listening to familiar Christmas music and perhaps want to rekindle memories of their childhood.

He’d prefer to think they are people who have given up on the institutionalized church but still want to believe there is a transcendent being who creates beauty.  They still hope for a world where love and justice are the norm.  

I think a belief in a creative spirit and a hope for a better world is what motivates most good people in their daily life whether they never attend church, attend every Sunday or are Chreasters. 

Other posts…….

Indoctrination or Teaching? 

I Want To Be Like Anna

Violence in Christian Families

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Filed under Holidays, Religion

A Poignant Book

all things consoled
All Things Consoled
is a poignant book. I instinctively knew I wanted to use the word poignant to describe All Things Consoled but I had to look up the definition to understand exactly why.  Poignant means ‘evoking a sense of sadness or regret’  and that is what Elizabeth Hay’s beautifully written memoir about caring for her aging parents will do if you have parents who have died or who are nearing the end of life. All Things Consoled may in fact be too poignant to read.  Sections fairly took my breath away – like the long list of things that prompt Elizabeth to think about her mother after her death. I could easily write such a list too. I cry just thinking about it. 

Elizabeth voices regrets as well about her relationship with her parents.  One in particular struck so close to home I had to close the book and leave it for twenty-four hours. Be prepared to take this book personally.  Some of the nerves it touched for me are too private to share here but one did make me chuckle and gave me a greater understanding of some incidents from my own teenage years. 

In a chapter called The Legs Elizabeth writes about how she shaved her legs at age thirteen when her parents had told her she needed to wait till she was sixteen to do so.  Her mom and dad ended up having a serious private talk with her about her rebellion.

family photo 60's

I don’t look much like a rebellious young teenager do I?

I remember similar serious discussions with my parents about being allowed to buy panty hose and wear lipstick and stop after school at a local restaurant with the other kids for fries with gravy and a Coke. On reflection Elizabeth realizes her parents were just scared about her growing up too fast, scared that if she broke one rule they had set out for her she might break others and that eventually her rebelliousness might lead her to become estranged from them. Since I was the oldest child in the family my parents no doubt harboured similar concerns about my rather innocuous signs of rebellion. 

The word poignant has its roots in an old French word that literally translated means to ‘prick’.  All Things Consoled pricked my conscience, my memory and my heart. 

Other posts……

Feeding My Mother

The Things We Keep 


Filed under Books


Tree in the Algarve area of Portugal

My husband Dave tree planting with a student in Borneo

Winter trees in Steve Juba Park Winnipeg

Tree Children by artist Leo Mol at the Richardson Building in Winnipeg

In a trillium forest with my sister-in-law Shirley in southern Ontario

Root Dress by Barb Hunt photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Family photo in front of a big tree on my sister’s yard in Winnipeg

My husband with a knight in shining armour and a Christmas tree in Bamberg Germany

Painting trees at a paint party at a bridal shower for my niece

In a sculpture called Edge of the Trees outside the City of Sydney Museum in Australia

Women knitting dresses for the trees at the Regina Folk Festival

A lava tree on the Big Island in Hawaii

Our church Christmas tree made of books.

Autumn tree in Quebec City

A glass mosaic called Ash Trees in the Late Afternoon by artist Sharon Loeppky

Arched tree in Sedona Arizona

My husband biking through a forest in Austria

Trees in Zion National Park in Utah

Trees in A.D. Penner Park Steinbach

Trees on Thomas Edison’s estate in Florida

Lone tree photographed on Lake Winnipeg

Hugging a redwood tree in Yalta Ukraine

In the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

Other posts……..

Imitating Emily

Two Trees- Forty One Years

Edge of the Trees- An Aboriginal Perspective


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Filed under Nature

Like Father Like Daughter?

movie viceWe saw the movie Vice on Christmas Day. It is a biography of Dick Cheney. While serving as George W. Bush’s vice president Cheney probably wielded more power than any vice president ever has.  The film claims it was because of Cheney’s influence that……. conservative news stations like Fox proliferated, ISIS was created, the United States invaded Iraq, efforts to promote alternatives to fossil fuels were stymied, and America heightened the brutality of its interrogation techniques. Also thanks to Cheney the current interpretation of the constitution implies that a president’s actions are always legal.  The movie didn’t leave viewers with much of anything to like or admire about Dick Cheney.

dick cheney's daughter mary holds bible for him when he is sworn in as vice president

Dick Cheney’s younger daughter Mary who has a same sex marriage partner holds the Bible for her Dad as he is sworn in as Vice President

The one moment in the film when I felt somewhat positively about Cheney was when he made it very clear to George W. Bush that if he became his running mate in 2000 there would be as he put it ‘be a concrete line’ in the sand with regards to the fact that Dick Cheney’s younger daughter Mary was a lesbian and in a same-sex marriage. Obviously same- sex marriage was something Republicans did not support but Cheney indicated he loved his daughter and his bond with her was of primary importance to him. In 2009 Dick Cheney made a public statement in favor of same-sex marriage.

The early part of the movie depicts the Cheney family- Dick, his wife Lynne, his younger daughter Mary, his older daughter Liz and their spouses and children as being very close, affectionate and supportive of one another. 

Interestingly then in 2014 when Dick Cheney’s older daughter Liz, a former Fox News contributor, was running for a Senate seat in Wyoming, with her parents’ approval she publicly took a stand against gay marriage and gay rights, a stance that created a rift with her sister Mary that has lasted to the present day.  They no longer see each other and Mary and her partner have publicly criticized Liz.  

liz cheney posted this picture on her twitter page

Liz posted a picture on Twitter of her father hugging her after she was elected to Congress

Liz lost her 2014 senate race but in  2016 the state of Wyoming elected Liz as their member of Congress to fill a position left open by a retirement and just this past November Liz Cheney was reelected and has been picked as the GOP conference chair which means she will be in charge of the party’s communications strategy and is the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. Liz has always been very supportive of her father and played a key role in his campaign for vice president. He in turn heartily supported his daughter’s run for Congress.

Seeing the film Vice and learning just how tragically and terribly Liz Cheney’s father changed the course of American history it is pretty scary to think that such a man’s child is now gaining power in Washington. Like father, like daughter? 

Other posts……….

Women in Politics

A President’s Funeral and a Statue in Hong Kong

Doing Something

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Filed under Movies, Politics

Creating Beauty

untitled marion tuuluq 1985

Untitled wall hanging by Marion Tuuluq 1985

Her mother passed away before Marion was a year old. Her father committed suicide when she was ten. Her first husband died mysteriously. Marion had sixteen children but only four survived.

Until Marion Tuu’luq was in her early 50s she lived a nomadic life in the harsh landscape of the Back River area of Nunavut. Food was often scarce, modern medical care was not available and the natural environment was filled with inherent dangers.  Hard to believe that a woman who survived all that would create something as joyful and lovely as the beautiful wall hanging above.

photograph of Marion and her husband Luke from the

Photograph of Marion centre, husband Luke left and unidentified youth from the Expanding Inuit website

Marion moved to Baker Lake in 1961 with her second husband Luke Anguhadluq to have access to schools and medical care for their family and it was there in 1967 that Marion began to develop her artistic talents using some of the sewing skills she had learned as a child. 

marion t

Marion Tuuluq in a jacket she designed

Marion began by creating traditional style clothing with embroidered designs and then with the encouragement of art advisors Jack and Sheila Butler began doing large-scale wall hangings.  Often she planned these rich, colorful  pieces ahead of time but according to an article by Marie Bouchard called American Woman Artists of the Twentieth Century at times she simply picked up her scissors and started cutting images developing a theme as she went along.

thirty faces marion tuuluq 1974

Thirty Faces by Marion Tuuluq 1974

In 1974 the same year she made the wall hanging Thirty Faces above Marion’s work was included in an exhibit called Crafts From Arctic Canada in Ottawa and Toronto. After this Marion’s work received a great deal of attention. She became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1978, and subsequently earned an honorary degree from the University of Alberta. You will find her work in galleries across Canada as well as in the National Gallery in Ottawa. 

lake trout 1973 marion tuuluq

Lake Trout by Marion Tuuluq -1973

Sadly Marion developed an allergy to wool in 1989 and that ended her creation of richly textured and appealing wall hangings.  Marion died in 2002 at age 92. 

nivinngajuliaatThe three wall hangings included in this blog post are all currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the exhibit called Nivinngajuliaat which means ‘wall hanging’ in Inuktitut.  So you have a chance to see Marion’s work first hand along with other talented artists who created wall hangings in the Baker Lake community. 

Marion was 57 years old when she started her artistic career and 64 when she really started to make a name for herself in the art world.  Inspiring stuff for those of us in that age range who are still trying to discover and hone our various artistic talents. 

Other posts………

Getting to Know Oviloo

You Will Fall In Love With Her

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Merry Christmas From My Bitmoji

christmas bitmojiOne of the student teachers I visited as part of my job for the University of Winnipeg put together the most engaging power points to guide her grade five and six students through her lessons. She had created a bitmoji of herself and the character always showed up somewhere on the power point slide in a relevant way.  For example if the lesson was about solving a scientific mystery the bitmoji of my student teacher might be carrying a magnifying glass. The grade five and six students absolutely LOVED this!  They were always so excited to see a new bitmoji of their teacher.

bitmoji christmasI had seen bitmoji’s before but had no idea how to make one.  I decided to teach myself.  I downloaded the app to create one on my I- phone, took my photo and then made a few changes to the bitmoji my photo created. marylou bitmoji christmasI am not really sure my bitmoji looks like me but here I am bitmoji style wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Other posts…….

Christmas in Different Places

My First Christmas Without My Mom

I’m Trying to Draw Cartoons


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Filed under Art, Education