A taste of culture

Aug 25, 2013 | 0 comments

First, I want to share the video I made from the footage on my lost GoPro. It’s basically a shortened version of everything I said in my last post. Enjoy!

In other news, yesterday I got to go shoot photography for a local cultural fall festival in the community. Almost as soon as I walked in, I was handed an Eskimo yo-yo made out of duct tape that said “I ♥ bacon” on it (SO random, right??). The woman tried to show me how to do it, but I was pretty hopeless at first. 

The Eskimo yo-yo has two weighted balls, one on each end of the string (the duct tape ones they were making were filled with rice). You hold it in the middle and start swinging one ball in one direction. Then you spin the other ball in the opposite direction, and ideally they should be counterweights and keep spinning with the up-down rhythm of your hand. Let me tell you: easier said than done. 
It was really cool to see everyone playing with them though, from kids to elders. One elder came over after watching me fail miserably at it, and tied a handle on mine and explained how he’d learned to do it growing up. Some people started by laying the yo-yo flat on a table and lifting it up quickly, getting the balls spinning right away; others would hold one ball steady, and start one spinning, and then flip the other ball to get them both going. That’s how I eventually got it to work. 

Demo of the one-hand reach

The other interesting part of the event was the Eskimo games. Two young men from the community demonstrated a few of them. Above is the one-hand reach, a game where one person holds a ball on a string at a steady height and the other balances on one hand while reaching up with the other to hit the ball.

Two-foot high kick

Above are photos of the two-foot high-kick. Similar to the one-hand reach, this game’s object is to hit the ball with both feet with a small running start. The highest one this man was able to kick was as tall as the top of his head, about 6 feet in the air.

Alaskan high kick

In the Alaskan high kick, the athlete starts from a sitting position on the ground, then balances on one hand, holds his opposite foot with the other hand, and kicks the ball with the remain foot. How the heck do they come up with these things?? It was very impressive.

I think this one was the Eskimo high kick, where the goal is to kick the ball and land on the same foot used for the kicking.

Kids making Eskimo yo-yos

In addition to the game demonstrations, there were also tables for beading, Eskimo yo-yo making, and tons of different kinds of salmon dips.

Traditional Eskimo yo-yo

There was also a table where men and elders were making traditional Eskimo yo-yos with skins and furs.

It was really fun to see some new aspects of the local culture like that, and to see kids actively learning from the elders and multiple generations taking part in Inupiaq games, crafts, and dancing. It was also nice especially because it was a simple community event — not set up for tourists or outsiders, but just for the people who live here to get together, share their traditions, and encourage kids to embrace their culture.

It was a lot of fun, and I now have a commemorative “I ♥ Bacon” Eskimo yo-yo to keep me occupied for the rest of the season. 😉


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