Friday, August 7, 2009

my "coming home" to Newfoundland

One of the difficult aspects about growing up in southern Ontario is grappling with what some have referred to as the Canadian identity crisis. Endless books, blogs, essays (including this one) have been devoted to lamenting "just what exactly is a Canadian?"

There are some groups of people for whom this is not a problem: the Québécois is one of the more obvious that comes to mind. I would also imagine that different First Nations groups, such as the Inuit, don't really struggle with the Canadian identity either. This is because identity, to these folk, is attached to the Québécois and Inuit cultures, and not to an ethereal "Canadianness." What Canadians don't realise is that each of these are our cultures. Canadians should not be defined by qualities common to all citizens; Canadians should be defined by the celebration of the multitude of subcultures within our national borders.

Newfoundland is home to another subculture that emerged from a province late in joining Confederation (not "being Canadian" is still well within living memory), as well as a province that is removed, both geographically and (I think as a result) metaphysically. This relative isolation, alongside the special relationship Newfoundlanders have with the sea, fostered an intense amount of community-building and island-specific culture that survives to this day. Some examples I witnessed first hand on my recent visit:
  • an entire room will slowly tap their feet to a rousing mandolin performance
  • the colourful local language and turns of phrase
  • the flying of the "pink, white and green," the unofficial flag of Newfoundland
  • fishermen will hum along with the traditional songs that they can hear coming over the water
  • the art and crafts (even some of the local, non-tourist work) that reflects iconic Newfoundland images
  • the deep desire to "come home" back to Newfoundland after any time away on the mainland

So in response to that lack-of-identity instilled upon me in southern Ontario, I find myself compellingly drawn to Newfoundland because I'm discovering what I consider to be a piece of my Canadian identity. This was only my second visit, but I'm already looking forward to my next chance to "come home."

1 comment:

  1. cheers to the cultural mosaic!
    kt

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