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a visit to the native hospital

I went to hospital today but don’t worry there is nothing wrong with me. It’s just that Angela, whose floor I am currently camping on in Anchorage, mentioned that there is an excellent collection of native art at the Native Hospital and so I overcame my hospital phobia and went to see it. I am so glad I did!

The display is carefully presented in a series of specially designed cabinets and alcoves that line the main stair well of the five story hospital building. Whoever put the collection together clearly knows their stuff but you have to wonder why these things are not in a top notch gallery in the middle of town. Viewing the work is made slightly surreal by the appearance of people waltzing across the lobby with a drip on a stand as their dancing partner or hobbling along the corridor on crutches.

However, in many ways, it makes perfect sense that this display is in the hospital. The native communities of Alaska face the same sort of social and economic problems that indigenous people are confronted with all over the world in the aftermath of the massive disruption of their culture and traditional way of life. In a social climate of high drug and alcohol abuse, ubiquitous violence and general ill-health, the hospital is something of a social hub – a common meeting place for people from all the remote communities.

I’m not sure how many people make the trip there specially to see the art but a number of staff did make sure that I knew that the collection extended up to the top of the building and mentioned that they always tell visitors to Anchorage to visit the hospital. I saw one couple who appeared, like me, to be there solely to see the display.

All the carvings, baskets, clothing, tools and other meticulously crafted items – made from an astonishing variety of materials; bone and ivory, the skins of various animals and fish, wood and fibres, stone, metal, glass beads, fur, feathers just to name a few – that are on display at the Hospital are breath-taking but what really fascinated me was the collection of dolls.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native doll.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Native dolls.

Liberty lady.

Liberty lady.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. catriona | July 14, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Anna
    So good to hear from you and what an amazing time you’ve had so far – and really it’s just started – your amazing adventure. Alaska sounds fascinating.
    You will have legs of steel and your spirit will be changed for ever!
    Callum is walking! At 9 months it’s a bit early – but he’s so happy in his exploring. I’m off to Melb in a couple of weeks, then maybe SOuth Africa. Anyway
    much love to you. Great photos too.
    love CAtriona and Callum

  2. julie | July 15, 2009 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Hi anna, things are changing in your travels – less pressure, more fun I hope. Wonderful that you have taken it on solo – you will be able to do as you please at your own pace, meet people on your own terms. The dolls are extraordinary, each so expressive. do they have a purpose? like magic or fetish? I’ve seen some like this in books on African fetishes. Following your blogs and beautiful photos with great interest. Lotsa love xx

  3. Camilla | July 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Greetings from us all in Spain to you in the wilds of Alaska. How does it feel to be the queen of the road? or a modern day explorer? The photos are very striking. No wonder you love it. The dolls are amazing too. Very intriguing aren’t they.

    Roly cooked us a fabulous fish dinner tonight and we wish you had been with us to eat it.

    Power to the legs and to you, sweetheart. Thinking of you.

    Love from us all here in Forna – me, La Lins, Roly, Lorraine and atmajyoti x x x

  4. zanny | July 26, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    The dolls are amazingly freaky little things – are their faces snake skin? Really loved these photographs.

    Hope your coping with the physical side of your adventures… and enjoying the metaphysical ones.

    miss you, find me on skype when you can xo

  5. anna | July 26, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    They are cool, aren’t they? The faces are made from salmon skin.

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