This carving stands on a pole at Songhees Point. It depicts the importance of children and the spirit of this sacred site to the Songhees First Nation. This area is also known as Pallatsis, meaning “place of the cradle” in the Lekwungen language. When children were able to walk on their own, parents put their cradle along the waterfront to ensure them a long life. This was the launch site of 3 canoes that participated in the ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony and traditional protocol of approaching a First Nations territory and asking to come ashore. A young boy is seen walking behind this pole to join his father (not pictured) before they departed in the canoes for the ceremony and to open the 2015 Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
OVER THE THREE-DAY Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, Canada, I witnessed the great pride of elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance, drum and sing, celebrating and preserving their rich culture.
We were a mix of Aboriginal people, some in colourful regalia, and non-Aboriginal people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the shared traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to ask for permission to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historic day, as this had never been done before in the history of Victoria.
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:
“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis.”
George Taylor, emcee of the Aboriginal Cultural Festival and director of Le-La-La Dancers of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation sings and drums as he leads a procession of 3 canoes across Victoria’s Inner Harbor in the canoe ceremony. Ten-year-old Matthew Everson seen beside George wearing a ceremonial blanket and mask participates in this historic ceremony.
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation looks on as a youth dancer from the Songhees Nation greets the canoes, he then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.
A young drummer from the Esquimalt First Nation joins his grandfather (not pictured) on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
Lason Taylor performs as a young grizzly bear at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Lason is a 3rd generation member of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island. They have been sharing their culture and traditions through song and dance under the direction of George Me’las Taylor locally and around the world for 27 years. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their rich culture has survived and will continue to survive.
A drummer stands beside elder Ray Qwulshemut Peter, director of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation, as they sing and drum at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival. This group presented songs and dances that were taught to them by their elders. They shared a song that was sacred to them and asked that no one record or photograph the performance. Several elders that lead dance groups stepped aside and asked the younger generation to sing and drums their songs. George Taylor spoke of the importance of the “passing of the drumstick” and teaching children and youth so that their traditions, songs, dances and stories may be carried on.
A young boy drums as he performs with the Tzinquaw Dancers from the Cowichan First Nation at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and at festivals from a young age.
Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught Amber the basics of this dance to which she has added her own elements.
Matthew Everson on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Matthew is a 2nd-generation dancer in the Le-La-La Dancers First Nation Dance Company.
Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he carved from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favourite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it brings light to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.
Young Michael Sheena of the Pauquachin First Nation shows off a drum he made from cut pieces of deer hide. He learned how to make rattles and drums from his grandfather, Virgil Bob. Virgil shared the month-long process of preparing a hide, such as putting the fur in a special solution and the scraping of fur. Michael comes from a family of artists as his grandfather’s sisters, Alva and Iona are weavers and jewellery designers. Michael was with his aunts and grandfather in the artist booth. I learned that Michael and Virgil also use elk and bear hide for their instruments.
Jason, Lason and George Me’las Taylor, 3 generations of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island.
It was an honour to be in one of 3 canoes during the historic Welcoming of Canoes ceremony. Watch a short 30-second video of my experience.
A non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia. Their website is a fantastic resource to find authentic Indigenous experiences and events throughout the year.
Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Vancouver and area. We found these ones in South Surrey in March 2016 while we were on a family trip during March Break. As a resident of Toronto, have to say I was a little jealous of their cherry blossom trees. Not only do they bloom earlier than us, they have many more trees than we do in Toronto, at least, it seemed that way. We saw trees everywhere we looked from Vancouver to Abbotsford.
Vancouver celebrates the Sakura trees and even has a Cherry Blossom Festival. In 2016, it runs from March 24 to April 17th.
For more information about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival including a map of cherry tree locations, visit here. The map helped us find the trees pictured above.
It’s been a great travel year for me and I am grateful for the opportunities, new friends, old friends and for a family that supports me.
In 2014 I returned to a country I love – South Africa, not once but twice! I visited in May and my dad came along. I also returned in November and my family (husband, 4yo & 9yo sons) came with! My dad joined us a week later. My visits to South Africa are always so inspiring and wonderful and never long enough.
St. James Beach – Cape Town, South Africa May 2014. This image was chosen to appear in Pocket Vistas, a Mobile Photography exhibition of Landscape, Nature & Wildlife.
My sons & penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town, South Africa November 2014.
My son checking out the view at Boulder’s Beach May 2014. Both my boys enjoyed seeing the penguins and playing in the water. Cape Town, South Africa.
Street art in Woodstock. Cape Town, South Africa November 2014.
Zebra in Black and White. Taken with my Olympus em1 mirrorless camera & M.Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens while on safari in South Africa with Naledi Enkoveni December 2014.
Bird silhouettes against a South African sunset. Taken with my Olympus em1 & 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens while on safari with Naledi Enkoveni December 2014.
The reason for my return to South Africa was because of a women’s mobile photography development initiative I founded and started there in November 2013, The Heart of a Woman Project. I visited in May to launch phase 2 and my father came with to meet the ladies and offer some help. I returned once more in November to celebrate our 1st anniversary with an exhibition and cultural celebration and was very happy to have my husband & 2 sons (9 & 4) with me.
The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa #thoawSA May 2014.
An inaugural #instameetEKASI in Khayelitsha with Instagramers Cape Town and the ladies from thoawSA June 1, 2014. Photo by Ockie Fourie.
My 4 yo son learning isiXhosa games from the kids in the eKhaya eKasi community. We spent 6 days there in November 2014. They played with the kids while I taught the ladies and they can’t wait to return.
On the way to South Africa, we had an overnight layover in London, England. Mostly we stayed near the airport in hopes that my sons would adjust a bit to the time difference so they could handle the further 2 hour difference between GMT and SAST. It seemed to work and they adjusted well. It also helped to avoid 2 back to back overnight flights. We took off to Windsor before checking in for our flight. Windsor was about 25 minutes from Heathrow, it’s a quaint town and a good layover visit. We saw Windsor Castle from the outside only and had lunch in a local pub. It was my son’s 1st visit to Europe, we’ll have to go back for a proper one.
My sons in front of Windsor Castle, a layover stop before our flight to South Africa November 2014.
Gemma, Andrea, Kelly & Mariellen of WeGoSolo at Women’s Travel Fest in New York, NY March 2014.
I also went to New York City in October for National Geographic Traveler’s seminar on Storytelling Photography with Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow, two well respected NG photographers. I’ve been a professional photographer since 2003 and have been following Ami’s incredible work since that time. It was great to meet her in person and to learn from her.
New York is a great city for solo travel and I love to see a show on broadway, discover a restaurant and observe what’s happening around the city. While walking back to my hotel after seeing a show on Broadway, I came across this scene in Times Square. At first it was just this young man with his sign and then this half dressed man came by and started dancing, things got interesting.
Only in New York City? October 2014.
I am also grateful to have been able to get in a short visit but with quality time with dear friends in Vancouver (my home away from home) and Saskatoon in Canada in April.
Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver April 2014
Saskatoon, Canada April 2014.
Between all the travel both solo and with family, I also managed to visit some our family favourites nearer to home – Niagara Falls in February and June and the Kawartha Lakes in August.
The American Falls as seen from the Canadian side. Visited Niagara Falls with the family on Family Day February 2014.
My oldest son enjoying the view in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario at a cottage we rented for a week August 2014.
Sons enjoying a ride on the Skywheel in Niagara Falls June 2014. We had an overnight there shortly after I returned from South Africa.
Lastly, I added 2 new cities to my travels, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico in July. I was in Santa Fe for the International Folk Art Market that hosts artisans from around the world. From their website – “Celebrates the humanity of the handmade that empowers communities through monumental earnings.”
There were so many talented artists with their incredible handmade work. It was like travelling around the world in a day. The highlights were visiting the artists and learning more about the work from Myanmar (Burma), South Africa and Haiti. I met a man and his family that represents the last 30 puppeteers of Myanmar. It’s a dying tradition that dates back 600 years. You can read about it here.
Fabrics from Myanmar at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Baskets made of telephone wire in South Africa at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Art from Haiti, with a strong belief in voodoo at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.