Monday, 16 June 2014

CAG on travel: Climbing in Snowdonia Wales

The love of the outdoors is something I can really get behind. Despite the fact that I've been living in the UK for so many years, there are still so many things in this country that continue to amaze me. Such a small place with so much to offer. Going to get my climb on in Snowdonia National Park Wales was such an interesting experience.

You can really tailor a trip to so many preferences, levels of ability, and types of accommodation. Snowdonia is huge, so picking an area to stay in was pretty key unless you really don't mind driving over 40km a day to get to where you want to climb. That doesn't sound like that long of a drive, but it's probably more key for thinking about post mountain summit.  Opting for the quaint country cottage in Dolgellau (largely for pub access reasons!), we settled into a nice, quiet, completely inundated by sheep weekend.

The first climb was Cader Idris, a smaller climb than Snowdon in the National Park, but a popular and pretty mountain. It was a pretty standard hike/ climb and because the weather was perfect it was quite easy, just a long walk. The views were amazing from the top of Cader Idris, and the barbecue after was so much more worth it.

The next day was a flatter, more foresty hike in the Coed y Brenin Forest Park. It was mostly mountain bike paths, but also provided a lot of beautiful scenery and waterfalls. It was a long walk as the park is huge, but again totally worth it.

The post walk treat was one of the top rated restaurants in Dolgellau called the Y Meirionnydd, partially situated in a medieval cellar. I still can barely pronounce any of the names in Wales- such a difficult language. The food really was amazing, mostly locally sourced, really nice staff, and the owner even offered to drive us home (just showing how nice people really are in Wales)!!

Wales is also known for its castles, so I'm putting photographs of this castle called Cymer Abbey up, but it was largely underwhelming. I'm sure the other castles in Wales are much more exciting.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

CAG on museums: The Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Grizzly totem pole, with Japanese armor in the background

On a rare sunny English day, I did what all sane people would do and stopped by the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) while I was in Cambridge for a visit. I think what I love most about the museum is that despite the fact that it hasn’t been open for quite a while and some major (and worth a visit!) renovations have gone on downstairs, the upstairs anthropology and archaeology exhibitions are still in the same Victorian style they always were.

Alfred Haddon photograph, group of young girls SE Asia

Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skull, collected by American anthropologist
Frederick Starr 1890s

There was actually a sign in the beginning of the first floor gallery that welcomed visitors and mentioned the upcoming renovations that would be occurring to the historic exhibitions. I asked some of the staff working that day about these plans, but I was not able to come up with any conclusive information about the nature of the renovations other than the style would kept similar to the current case styles with renewed interpretation.

View of the anthropology floor

1900s Zulu and Xhosa beadwork

The overall feel of the museum is reminiscent of the Pitt Rivers Museum display which is also undergoing a refresh of case interpretation, while keeping to the similar style. One of the main benefits of going to the MAA is the ability to really scrutinize some of the larger freestanding statues. Many show how at the time that many of these objects were collected, the cross cultural moments were also reflected in the materials used that intermingled with traditional craftsmanship.

Late 19th century canoe figurehead from Borneo,
with porcelain teacups for eyes and European metal

Solomon Islands feasting bowls

There are also quite a few hidden treasures that demand you really look in the cases at some of the smaller items on display. I really like the children’s games and dolls in the Canadian case. The female doll below is also carrying a baby on her back that you can just see the face of hidden within her sealskin hood.

Spinning top and bird scapula used for the ring and pin game

Definitely an anthropologist's paradise!

Friday, 28 February 2014

CAG on museums: The Tate Britain collections

The Tate Britain has been refurbished and it’s absolutely beautiful. It is a gorgeous riverside building in Pimlico, and the front entrance has been restored. The inside has a real art deco feel and is peppered with beautiful British art pieces in various corners and turns.

Rev Butler Woman 1949

When I visited the sculptor Alison Wilding’s works had just gone up in the Duveen galleries, and it was very interesting. She focuses on bringing different materials together and because of the natural light in the hall, contrasts of the materials, shadows, and colours were highlighted.

The Painting Now exhibition was also on and was a little different than the retrospective shows I’m used to seeing at Tate. Instead of focusing on the historic progression of one painter, it examined the work of five contemporary artists and what painting means today.

Gillian Carnegie Section 2012

Tomma Abts Zebe 2010

Simon Ling

Lucy McKenzie

Catherine Story Lowland 2012

Also taking a walk around the galleries highlighted some interesting objects from the permanent collection. My unknowledgeable approach to art half encompasses loving art that makes me chuckle.

Steven Claydon Joanna (An Unsubstantial Fraction) (Of Substance without Action) 2010

And then there was the weird and thought provoking collections…such as the Chapman Family Collection 2002 of various takes on African sculpture with the faces of the McDonalds characters and branding incorporated.

Blurry but creepiness captured

Hamburglar on the cross? Super weird

And of course I had to grab a snap of one of my favorite UK artworks, and somewhat name doppelgänger, Chris Ofili’s work No Woman No Cry.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

CAG on travel: Eating in Athens

A little delayed for 2014, but I’m finally catching up on some of the blogging I’ve been meaning to do. As usual during my travels in Athens, I have so much Greek food that I love and miss when I’m away. When I was in Athens earlier this year I had a few old favourites and some new culinary experiences.

Cutting the Vasilopita

On arrival, I finally had a chance to take part of the Vasilopita cake cutting. The cake technically is meant for New Years Day to celebrate Saint Vasili. There’s a coin placed in the lemony sponge cake batter, and whoever gets the slice with a coin in it will have a New Year with lots of luck. I had a piece of cake with my family- no coin. I also had another piece at my cousin’s business anniversary party- again no coin. On the positive side, I ate a whole lot of cake symbolising life, liberty, and happiness, so that’s working out.

Cut pieces of cake, neither with the lucky coin

I also restablished my love of late night food after a long Greek night out at my favourite crepe place. Just on Kifissias Avenue and on the way home, savoury crepes might be my very favourite post party food. I really wish there were a few more late night choices in the UK as well.

The lovely Greeks hard at work making my spinach crepe

The best place I ate during my trip was Dionysos, a restaurant directly in view of the Acropolis. Anywhere you eat while looking upon the Acropolis is pretty magical, but this restaurant was very special.

View from the restaurant

It is quite pretty, modern, and formal inside, and the food is absolutely amazing. Probably not the biggest portions of food available in Greece, but everything is really delicious at least. It’s also worth it for the winter sunset alone.

Monkfish, horta, mustard based sauce
Winter sun!

Friday, 6 December 2013

CAG on museums: Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland again…

Sunny but deceptive 
Ice sculpture in the streets of Perth

During my ongoing sojourn in the North, I have been discovering many little gems dotted around the lovely countryside. Just last week I was in freezing Perth, Scotland to go through some of their ethnography collections with the curators of the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh. There is a Pacific Collections Review being conducted in Scotland ( with headquarters at National Museums Scotland, and they are looking at collections all over the Scottish countryside. Eve Haddow is the Pacific Review Curator conducting this research and because of my work with Maori collections over the years, she invited me to see what new things we could explore in Perth.

Maori flute (pu torino), Ramsay piece donated 1842, Whanganui
Flute carving detail

I can’t claim to be such a Maori object expert that when I see objects I can name their age, origin, and back story, but one day... I do look at Maori objects and see nothing but an amazing story, ancestral heritage, and interesting exchange/gift/removal history that I want to delve into.

A lot of the collections amassed in Perth were brought into the museum through the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society members. The Society was established in 1784 and collected more than Scottish antiquities to include natural history and world ethnography. The most significant early objects were given by David Ramsay (1794-1860) and there were also later donations of Pacific material from J.H Dixon in 1917, A. Wilson in 1940, and L. Woodward in the 1950s.

Naturalistic Ngati Porou house panel or pou pou
exhibited at Crystal Palace in 1867

Some of the Perth objects are described as ‘unfinished’, which is an issue I find amazingly interesting for Maori objects. If something was actually unfinished, what does that say about the relationship of the giver/carver to the person receiving the object?

Whalebone ivory comb or heru, Ramsay piece donated 1842
Described as 'unfinished'

Obviously many exchanges of goods were to art dealers who sold Maori objects on to collectors, and several of these exchanges are interesting because of the extent to which objects don't look like typical Maori objects. Sometimes European materials were added to objects by Maori and art dealers alike, but in particular one piece in Perth seemed to be changed to a much further extent than usual. The Ramsay staff or taiaha below has traces of feathers, hair labelled human hair when usually the white dog hair was included, but there is also an under layer of red cloth and newspaper(?). Definitely intriguing. I’d love to know about other examples like this.

Staff or taiaha, Taranaki region, Ramsay piece donated 1842

Detail of red cloth and possible newspaper?

Detail of upper taiaha binding

There were also many different waka huia or papa hou or treasure boxes. These containers would hold the most treasured items such as hei tiki greenstone pendants or huia bird feathers, and would be hung from the rafters of the house to be seen from below.

Bay of Plenty region waka huia, also Ramsay donation

Lid of Gisborne waka huia, Dixon collection 1917

Bottom of above container

And then… we saw the ONLY relatively intact cloak with kakapo bird (parrot) feathers still attached. It was a very exciting few days- a testament to my true nerd factor.

Top side of the feather cloak or kahu kakapo, South Island 18th century
Also Ramsay collection
Underside of kahu kakapo where one can see the
contours in woven panels to fit over the body.Every cloak
was made for a specific person to fit them

Follow by Email