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2010 Archives

September 25th, 2010

Sighting of the Red Wooden Mask

Red Wooden Mask

The Centre de la Mi-Carême staff received the following photo from a passenger on a flight from Halifax, Canada to Paris, France. The Red Wooden Mask told this person that he is on a quest to eventually get back home to Grand-Étang, Cape Breton.

However, he wants to understand how he ended up on Cape Breton Island in the first place. His journey has begun by flying to France, the homeland of the ancestors of most of the Acadians who live in the Chéticamp region.

August 13, 2010

Jeanne Dugas (1731-1817) meets historian Anne Marie Lane Jonah

Cassie Cahoon in costume as Jeanne Dugas
Cassie Cahoon in costume as Jeanne Dugas

Parks Canada historian Anne Marie Lane Jonah and writer Cassie Cohoon will give a presentation on August 17, 2010 at 7:30pm at the Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Étang Harbour on the life of Jeanne Dugas.

Jeanne Dugas (1731–1817) was an Acadian woman born at the Fortress of Louisbourg and who was a founder of the village of Chéticamp in the 18th century. She led a fascinating life spending most of it, from when she was 13 until her mid-fifties, moving around the region because of the many wars and conflicts of the 18th century. Jeanne finally settled down with her husband in Cheticamp in 1785.

In this evening presentation, Cassie Cahoon will portray an elderly Jeanne and Anne Marie Lane Jonah will present what she knows of Jeanne’s life and of the Acadians at Louisbourg, setting the scene for a conversation with Jeanne about her life. Jeanne lived through much of our region’s history, from the fall of Louisbourg, the battle of Restigouche and raids by American revolutionary privateers. Come meet Jeanne and learn about the resilience and the survival of the Acadians that founded Cheticamp.

Robert Deveaux
Robert Deveaux

Anne Marie Lane Jonah has worked for years on the history of Cape Breton’s Acadians and how they connect with the story of Louisbourg; she has a particular interest in the story of Jeanne Dugas. Cassie Cohoon, a writer from Montreal and a descendant of Jeanne Dugas, has worked on a fictionalized account of the adventures of Jeanne.

After the presentation, participants enjoyed an evening of song, music and dance accompanied by the Acadian fiddler, Robert Deveaux.

Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites and national parks that make up the rich tapestry of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries. This year Parks Canada celebrates a very significant Canadian milestone in conservation, education and visitor experience: the 125th anniversary of national parks in Canada.

August 6, 2010

Looking for the Red Wooden Mi-Carême Mask

Red Wooden Mi-Carême Mask

Have you seen the Red Wooden Mi-Carême Mask that was hanging out in Belle Cote, Cape Breton? Perhaps the red wooden mask has become the new gnome of the world? Cape Breton’s red mask has disappeared from Belle Côte. The Mi-Carême Centre staff and their friends are bewildered. Did it run away to visit and discover the world? Has it been kidnapped by someone? Perhaps it has been kidnapped by a lover of masks? Or, by a lover of the Mi-Carême? We need your help in finding the whereabouts of the red wooden mask.

Here is the description of our wandering mask:

Facial Colour: Red

Height and width: 60 cm. tall by 45 cm wide
(two feet tall by 18 inches wide)

Weight: approximately 4.5 kg. (ten pounds)

(although he may have lost weight since his disappearance)

We are waiting to hear about sightings of the red wooden mask. Perhaps someone in your community is harbouring either our run away mask or our kidnapped mask. If so, you can telephone us at 902-224-1016 or email us. In the meantime, you can visit our Mi-Carême Centre. You can see the mask’s family there.

If you are feeling lonely – oh red wooden mask – come home, we love you! Or, if your kidnapper realizes that you are very lonely for your Mi-Carême family - please bring the mask back home to the Mi-Carême Centre (no questions asked).

July 30th, 2010

Launching of Centre de la Mi-Carême’s New Web site

The Mi-Carême Centre launches its new website. Thanks to this virtual world, Internet surfers will be able to discover aspects of the magic fete of the Mi-Carême. Surfers will be able to read a brief history about this old tradition whose roots reach back to medieval Europe. They will find practical information to help plan a visit to the Centre and to enjoy exploring the surrounding Acadian area of Chéticamp and Saint-Joseph-du-Moine.

Website visitors can visit a part of the interactive exhibit that is located at the Mi-Carême Centre that helps understand this medieval custom. Paper mâché masks, wooden masks, clay-like jewellery and hooked rugs that highlight the Mi-Carême theme are examples of artisan products sold at the Mi-Carême Centre’s boutique. Readers will find books about the Mi-Carême as well as on other traditions such as legends and tales. Postcards, art cards and reproductions of paintings are other items that offer souvenirs of a visit to the Centre. A short questionnaire tests your knowledge about Mi-Carême.

Finally, the website gives you the chance to send virtual postcards to friends and family, thus opening doors to the discovery of this ancient custom that is still enjoyed in this corner of Cape-Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. During this festivity disguised revellers go from house to house (called running the Mi-Carême) to see if the watchers of mi-carême can guess their identity. The masked visitors ask their hosts “Do you let the mi-carêmes in your home?”. Upon visiting the new website, it is the Centre’s hope that you will wish to let the mi-carêmes into your imagination.

July 13, 2010

Causerie at the Mi-Carême Centre
Understanding Mi-Carême: The Battle Between Carnival and Lent

On July 13, 2010, the audience gathered at the Mi-Carême Centre entered the magical world of Mi-Carême (which is a mini-Carnival event in the middle of Lent) by voyaging into the painting “Battle Between Carnival and Lent” (1559) by the artist Pieter Bruegel the elder. The presenter, Dr. Barbara Le Blanc, guided the participants through aspects of the symbolic world represented in the painting, and together they explored some of the meanings of many of the 200 images within the scene. They then discovered some of Mi-Carême’s ancient roots, found in fertility festivals of Ancient Rome.

During the evening presentation, the personification of Carnival and Lent come to life as the audience sees the round-bellied fat Carnival figure battle the thin skeleton-like Lent. In the painting, Carnival, wearing bright colours and a meat pie on his head, brandishes a butcher’s knife and rides a beer barrel, pushed by clown-like characters. He confronts Lent, who is sombrely dressed in dark colours with a beehive on its head, and sits upon a chair on a platform with wheels, pulled by a nun and a monk. Carnival’s lance has meat (food par excellence of Carnival) attached to it and Lent’s lance has fish (Lenten food) attached to it. Carnival symbolizes the pleasures of life such as eating and drinking, while Lent symbolises religious penitent life in preparation for Easter. Carnival, on the left of the painting, represents revelry and mockery while Lent on the right represents austerity and penance. The well, source of water and life, located in the centre of the painting, represents and offers equilibrium, between the two extreme behaviours of Carnival and Lent.

Carnival Lent
Details from Battle Between Carnival and Lent (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the elder

These glimpses of the symbols that help one understand the significance of Mid-Lent was then followed by a quick look at festivals of Ancient Rome that influenced later festivities, such as Mi-Carême, in medieval Europe and that were brought by French speaking colonists to Acadie.

Barbara Le Blanc
Barbara Le Blanc

The presenter, ethnologist Barbara Le Blanc, teaches in the Département des sciences de l’éducation at Université Sainte-Anne. She has lived and worked in Europe and North America in a variety of fields such as theatre, teaching and cultural tourism. Her research has focused on topics linked to educational tourism, the use of drama and theatre in learning, as well as Acadian history and culture.

She has written a number of articles on Acadian culture and a children's book, Acadie en fête published by BBC and Longman Publications in Great Britain. Her book Postcards From Acadie: Grand-Pré, Evangeline, and the Acadian Identity, examines the role of an historic site in the construction of a sense of Acadian group identity and belonging.

Her publication Tous ensemble : Guide pour enseigner les danses tradionnelles acadiennes dans les écoles – All Join Hands : A Guide to Teach Traditional Acadian Dances in School is a resource consisting of a manual, a music CD and on VHS (or DVD) to help learn examples of Acadian dances that have been done over the past 400 years.

July 13th, 2010

Première of theatre piece Will you let the mi-carêmes in your home?

On July 13, 2010, the first performance of the ten-minute theatre piece Will you let the mi-carêmes in your home? written and directed by Daniel Castonguay, succeeded in captivating the imaginations of the play’s audience. During the performance, two employees invite the public to discover the Mi-Carême fête.

The two comedians, using a number of masks and costumes, lead the audience into the magic world of this ancient tradition. They also introduce them to historical characters such as Jeanne Dugas and Charles Robin. The personification of Lent arrives on the scene to warn people to do penance during the Lenten fasting period. The two actors present the strong southeast wind, called the “suête” in this Acadian region.

The suête wind in the play “Will you let the mi-carêmes in your home?”
The suête wind in the play Will you let the mi-carêmes in your home?, mask made by Nicolle Chiasson

Then, we meet two characters who are preparing their home for disguised mi-carême visitors. The couple make us realize the hard work that is necessary to open their home to these masked revellers. During this part of the play, music and song entertain the participants. Finally, the two actors invite us to dance and join in the fun of the festivity.

Will you let the mi-carêmes in your home?
Two characters preparing their home for disguised mi-carême visitors

Writer and director of the play, Daniel Castonguay, studied theatre arts at the Université de Moncton as well as at the National Theatre School of Canada. For eight years, he worked as artistic director at the Pays de la Sagouine in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, where he wrote and directed thirty-some theatre pieces inspired by the imaginary world of Antonine Maillet’s famous works. Since leaving the Pays de la Sagouine, Daniel Castonguay has worked on several writing and directing projects.

Daniel Castonguay
Daniel Castonguay

The play Daily Life at Grand-Pré, was commissioned by the Société Promotion Grand-Pré for Grand-Pré National Historic Site. The play, inspired by the ancient troubadour tradition, highlights everyday life of the eighteenth century Grand-Pré settlement in a humoristic way.

He also has worked on projects for the Theatre of the Escaouette and the Festival of Miramichi. In July 2010, he became the president of the Cultural Society of South-Kent in New Brunswick.