Monday, October 07, 2013

Walking First Nations London

Just rehearsed the guided walk for Origins.  It's going to be amazing!  Coll Thrush, who leads it, is an historian from the University of British Columbia, and he is writing a book about the visits made to London by indigenous people - primarily from North America but also from the Pacific - since the first contact between the cultures.  Amazingly, it goes back to 1502 - only ten years after Columbus - when some Inuit seem to have been in London.

Coll leads the walk from Covent Garden, through the areas where the four kings of the Cherokee (pictured, with their alcoholic interpreter) stayed, and the house where the Raleigh circle worked on an orthography for Native American languages.  He takes you to St Martin in the Fields, where the King and Queen of Hawaii once lay in state, draped in cloaks made from the feathers of 90,000 birds of paradise.  He shows you where Pocahontas and her uncle were met by King James and saw a masque by Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones.  He ends up at Westminster Abbey, with an astonishing story about a shaman.

What is especially exciting is how conventional ideas of the two cultures are often reversed.  Many visitors felt that London was a savage and depraved place: one Native American was a priest who came in the 18th century to save the Londoners for Christ.  Many were so disillusioned by what they saw that, like the uncle of Pocahontas, they returned to their own lands determined to lead rebellions against the colonists.  You start to see your own history differently when it's refracted through the eyes of another culture.

There are two walks during the festival - on October 26 and November 2.  Click the links to book!

No comments: