This morning I paid a visit to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (the MAC) to lead a student group from an ESL class (English as a Second Language). The students represent a variety of cultures, but the majority have come to the United States from the Himalayan nation of Bhutan.
The Bhutanese students surprised me because of their deep interest in the various exhibits. For example, as we observed several large baskets, one middle-aged woman became somewhat emotional as she explained that many years ago, her father had made a similar basket. Almost every time I have spoken to the Bhutanese students, they remark how similar their culture is to the indigenous people of North America.
Every item displayed a deep sense of beauty. Every basket, mocassin, or beaded bag reminded me of friends and loved ones who continue to make such things, and while I certainly understand the desire to preserve them, it was difficult for me to see them as simple artifacts. Yes, I appreciate the beauty, but at the same time, I feel sad to know that these items will never be used again.
In the old way, I have heard it said that certain objects sometimes come alive, like a spirit. I wonder then, how these ones feel living always behind a layer of glass.
The lobby features a large mural painted by local artist Ric Gendron. I have to say that I have always loved his work. In my experience, his paintings reflect the soul of Indian people in this region. They evoke something deeply inspired and authentic, and they reflect tradition, while accepting the complexities of culture and history.