Sunday, January 27, 2019

Traveller Tales

A few days ago I came through Ottawa City Hall one evening. A series of large scale portrait photographs caught my eye, and I photographed this set of four of them. Yuri Dojc, a Canadian photographer of Slovak birth, compiled North Is Freedom: The Legacy Of The Underground Railroad. The photo essay features current day descendants of freedom seeking slaves who found refuge in Canada in the decades before the Civil War. Labels identify the person or people and their area of residence, and when possible the ancestor who took a chance and followed the North Star to freedom through what was called the Underground Railroad. 

Something else nearby had drawn me back after seeing it some weeks earlier. City Hall has some exhibit space, including for art. In another spot, the artifacts of Canadian figure skater Barbara Ann Scott were on display for some years on temporary loan. At present the space is occupied by Postcards From Ottawa: Traveller Tales.

Outside, several panels you can lift to reveal the answer are placed, regarding famous visitors. It starts with musicians.

The next pair are two people from different times and different places, one in the past, and one very much in the present.

And here is another pair.

The last of these features an astronaut.

Nearby is the first of the panels. In 1980 Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to cancer, set out on a cross country marathon a day journey starting in St. John's, Newfoundland. His journey would be cut short by the return of cancer and he would die the following year, but he left a huge legacy behind, with runs in his name held each year across the world. He was in the Ottawa area at Canada Day that year.

The first face one sees inside is a familiar one to my American readers. One of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, and a civil rights pioneer, is seen arriving at what was Uplands Airport south of the city. Ten years after he broke the colour barrier in major league baseball in 1947, Jackie Robinson was paying a return visit to the Great White North on this occasion. The year before he had started with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent a season with the farm team, the Montreal Royals, in the minor leagues as preparation for what was to come. The fans in Montreal loved him. I'm reminded of a quote from the Ken Burns documentary on Robinson. Upon the Royals winning the championship that season, the fans hugged Robinson and lifted him on their shoulders. Sam Maltin, a sportswriter and friend who saw it all, wrote, "probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."

For today I finish with this pair of panels of travelers. More from this tomorrow.


  1. You sparked my interest in Yuri Dojc. His portraits look great! I see he has some books on Amazon.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Apologies for the delete. Should engage brain before engaging the publish button :) Great post, so many interesting things and am now intrigued enough to want to find out more. Thanks William!

  3. The first pic is really stunning, I love it! If I had the space...
    Very interesting displays, too.

  4. 'Strange people' hey, how about that Jimi Hendrix 😀

  5. I like the concept of posing the question and then lifting the flap to be sure you have answered correctly. Portrait photographs are interesting to see.

  6. Very interesting ! I didn't know that slaves escaped to Canada !

  7. Terry Fox ... A single dream. A world of hope.
    About slaves fleeing to Canada ... "Uncle Tom's Cabin" perfectly describes these escape!

  8. É sempre interessante as histórias dos viajantes, aproveito para desejar um bom Domingo.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  9. i appreciate the French and English - I took Spanish. I had to go back and see what Emma Watson did do? She is a fave actress. great post. ( ;

  10. Interesting stories and visits of a great range of beautiful people.

  11. I'm impressed by the Underground Railroad art...or at least being the source material. It's made me wonder how many blacks are in Canada. Somehow when we hear the stories of slaves escaping to freedom in Canada, I've missed hearing about what they did once they got there. I love the interactive boards with stories to be answered under the flaps.

  12. ...we have come a long ways, but have so far yet to go!

  13. This a fascinating post ~ especially for Black History month ~ well done with the photos too!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  14. Very interesting stuff presented in a way to draw us in to the topic.

  15. @Linda: it seems he is quite accomplished.

    @Denise: that happens!

    @Iris: I found it moving.

    @Grace: Hendrix was right.

    @Maywyn: thanks!

    @Rosemary: I found the concept enlightening.

    @Gattina: yes, it was for many a safer refuge than the northern States.

    @Ella: it's a fascinating period of history.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Marie: thanks!

    @Beth: the two languages together are common here.

    @Jan: I thought so!

    @Barbara: the descendants are part of our national tapestry. Then there are black people who have come to Canada from other parts of the world.

    @Tom: true.

    @Carol: thanks!

    @Red: that it does.

  16. Having the panels in place to cover the answer certainly makes for an interesting way to interact.

  17. The city I where I grew up in Illinois was on the Underground Railroad and many of the homes still had secret rooms used to house people on their way.

  18. You get around! This looked intriguing.

  19. What a fun exhibit! I'll look forward to your next post!

  20. That would be fun to guess who they were referring to!

  21. In the first photo, the top two seem triumphant somehow, while the bottom two seem terrifying.

  22. I remember reading about Terry Fox's run back then. Lots of respect for him and his journey.

  23. @Lois: it does.

    @Sharon: that doesn't surprise me.

    @Jennifer: I have no idea how long the Postcards exhibit is on for, but the photo exhibit is on until mid February.

    @Jeanie: yes, the next two posts have more of this.

    @RedPat: I certainly thought so.

    @Sandi: I look at each of them and I see strength and resolve.

    @Bill: he was an extraordinary man.

  24. Love the first one. Wow, on the photos.

  25. Adore the portraits in the first image. Some stunning character profiles. But the image that really surprised me was the one involving Oscar Wilde. I have always loved Wilde's 'Picture of Dorian Gray', but had no idea that he was inspired by his own portrait by Ottawa painter Frances Richards...

  26. Interesting exhibit. The Underground Railroad descendants photo is especially interesting.

  27. Interesting to know about the people who have escaped and living new lives.

  28. I do like how they've arranged this exhibit.
    You've shown it to us very well William, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  29. @Whisk: thank you!

    @Gemma: I wouldn't have known either.

    @Kay: I found it to be that case too. I'll have to go see it before it goes. It finishes up on Friday.

    @Nancy: it certainly is.

    @Cloudia: quite so!

    @Jan: you're welcome.

    @Klara: that it is.