A Trip to the Native Canadian Centre

Two weeks ago, someone from a past trip came for a visit. It was none one other than Hanan Shafir, the site photographer of the Bethsaida Excavation Project I participated in way back in 2013. He was visiting his extended family in Toronto and attending a wedding. We had met twice before, the first time a few months after the expedition and the second time in 2015 when I was already a mother. Hanan is a professional photographer, artist, and motorcycle enthusiast who had traveled the states extensively.

Having dropped off my daughter to daycare, we had breakfast at an Israeli restaurant in Thornhill (my idea) and then drove all the way to downtown to visit the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (his idea). As we drove slowly down Bathurst Street with Yael Naim’s songs playing from the speakers, he recalled some of the places in the city he  had visited and people he had met. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that someone from across the globe can have such strong ties with the city where I spent most of my adult life. But life can be strange sometimes.

The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto is partly a museum and partly a charity organization that runs programs and services for the Indigenous peoples of Toronto. It’s open every day, except for Sunday, and it’s completely free! After signing in at the front desk, we proceeded into the gallery area, where we were offered a traditional Native pipe. We had an opportunity to see paintings created by local Native artists representing different Indigenous groups. As he took time to examine each and every artwork, I recognized in him the same spark I had experienced at the Archaeology Wing of Israel Museum in Jerusalem nearly five years ago. It’s the same spark I feel every time a copy of the Biblical Archaeology Review arrives at my mailbox or whenever Eli Cohen announces new song releases on the radio.

Eventually, he had to leave for another meeting, while I had to drive back to day and pick up my daughter. But before returning to my car, I went back to Tim Hortons for a cup of tea, where I sat and watched people walk by. In the meantime, I pondered over life and things that fascinate us. While I have a strong affinity for Israeli/Middle Eastern culture, Hanan Shafir is fascinated with the Native American world. I often wonder if we, as human beings, are programmed to be drawn to things out of our reach. Only that I don’t know the answer.

In either case, I do recommend the Native Canadian Centre to anyone interested in local arts and Aboriginal history.






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