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Blackwood on the Tradition of Mummering (Audio)

March 2nd, 2011

Blackwood talks about key aspects of his prints – Newfoundland’s long tradition of mummering.

Duration: 00:02:29

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David Blackwood, Lone Mummer Inside

Lone Mummer Inside, 1979
etching and aquatint on wove paper
61.0 x 91.4 cm
Given by friends in memory of Norman Bruce Walford, chief of administration and corporate secretary, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1981–1989, in appreciation of his devotion to the arts, 1994
93/415

Still from the National Film Board documentary

Film still from NFB’s Blackwood

Mummers
Ritual visiting lies at the heart of Newfoundland culture. Early settlers brought this tradition, known as mummering, from England and Ireland. Between Christmas and Epiphany, members of the community visited each other’s homes, usually in groups. Mummers disguised their appearance – at times using lace curtains – as well as their voice. But an encounter that began with threatening undercurrents ended with drinking and seasonal good cheer, as mummers entertained their hosts with music in the kitchen while their hosts attempted to identify them. Mummering began to die out after Confederation in 1949, but was revived in the mid-1970s following the release of a National Film Board documentary.


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