Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nenkanno' Gera

For the past month and a half I've been working for the Guam Humanities Council, putting together their exhibit "Transitional Table" which opens next week, on Tuesday October 13, at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center at the entrance to Big Navy. The opening reception is at 6 pm, but if you can't make it then the exhibit will be open unil November 21st.

The title itself doesn't sound very interesting, but the exhibit (gi minagahet) is. Its a combination of a national Smithsonian exhibit that has been brought to Guam, which covers changing food practices in the United States over several centuries. A locally made exhibit has been added to it, which deals with the history of food in the years immediately before, during and after World War II. I just went down yesterday while the exhibit was being put up and although the space is a bit tight, I still think it's going to be great. In the middle of the exhibit room the Smithsonian panels have been put up, and along the walls there are interpretative panels dealing with different themes such as prewar food practices, food quotas and occupation, food as resistance, liberation, Chamorro stewards and military service. There are also collections of items, such as military issue fishing hooks which were common on Guam after World War II, (nasa) shrimp traps, machetes and fosinos made by my great-grandfather and grandfather before and during World War II.

I provided most of the research for the local exhibit, and naturally most of it won't be used, so I'm considering just publishing parts of it on this blog, just so the information can get out somewhere. Even though the time period is so small, in any community, especially one undergoing a great deal of changes, you'll find a diversity of practices. The hardest thing was narrowing the scope down to make the project doable in such a short time. Every family had their own way of cooking, of saying what constitutued a Chamorro plate or what was really the food that Chamorros ate. In the war, different people found different ways to survive. Finding a way to make general narrative statements about the experiences of tens of thousands of people, is tough, and so you can never be as precise or explicit as you might want to be.
I'm pasting the poster and invitation for the exhibit below, as well as some information from GHC.

Transitional Table Opening October 13, 2009

The Guam Humanities Council, in partnership with the War in the Pacific National Historical Park and the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, will host the second leg of the Smithsonian Institution Key Ingredients'American by Food tour with the presentation of Transitional Table, from October 13 through November 21, 2009 at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center in Sumay. A public opening take place on Tuesday, October 13 at 6:00 pm

Transitional Table will explore Guam's shifting food traditions during and after World War II. Interpreting the pre- and post-war history of food traditions on Guam, highlighting the indigenous Chamorro culinary experience, will be the main focus of the local exhibition component. Historical and contemporary photographs along with relevant artifacts and objects will augment the interpretive text panels to fully document this important period of change, adaptation and innovation in the island's food practices.

The six week exhibition venue at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park will also include a series of programming events, such as lectures by scholars, chefs and cultural experts on food traditions before and after the war, storytelling by elderly Chamorros about the techniques used to gather, prepare and store food during the war, visits to a family ranch, and food demonstrations highlighting post-war innovations and adaptations.

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