Visual observations on Remembrance Day in Fort Kochi / Cochin, Kerala, including: St. Francis Church (India’s first European church built in the 15th century by Catholic Portuguese and later re-consecrated by Protestant Dutch); a Cenoptah commemorating Armistice of “Great War” in 1918; and, an historic Dutch cemetery. Inside church is where remains of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gamma were interred for several years before being repatriated by his son. Also captured are a nearby former armoury and parade ground, as well as Mahatma Gandhi Beach with myriad fishing boats and Chinese fishing nets. All of which i found to be contemplative metaphors for Remembrance Day.
Note: Snapped Lomo cork-covered, “sardine can” camera with expired b&w film (posted with very minor corrections).
Full Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese Memorial Cenotaph in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada, including: minute of silence, bagpipers, buglers, reading of Flander’s Field and other respectful meditations. Pardon rough edits etc.
Originally published in Vancouver Observer on Nov. 10, 2010. Republished here intact for posterity.
Each Remembrance Day, I’m sure to put forth that there is significant importance in documenting the stories from those affected by war—from veterans and dodgers to widowers and pacifists.
By gathering the anecdotes and artifacts of war, we honour the noble efforts of regular folk in desperate circumstances. Further, we aid in the prevention of costly violent errors in the future by bearing witness and sharing what already know.
Nobility of Documentation
I feel there is great power in documentation and in gathering and sharing stories.
For me, the reasons for capturing memories are most clear around Remembrance Day when otherwise pacific elders are resplendent with dusty spangles, propped by stiffened knees, and tears are rather expected.
With the fading and guarded memories of veterans in mind, I extol the virtues of archiving the oral tradition and preserving the ephemera in attics and shoeboxes with the maxim, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” in mind.
To my eyes, there is scant glory in the macro-reasons for war, but noble sadness (even wabi sabi in Japanese aesthetic terms), and I have utmost respect for the efforts made by the those who are obliged to participate in conflict – regardless of their roles or reasons.
Why I Gather
While wars go on, I would be a regrettable resister if I did not study, remix and share the stories of those at war, in years present and past. I’ve seen concentration camps near Muchen’s Oktoberfest and the rusted hulks of tanks reclaimed by jungles onPeleliu. I’ve dived amongst the leftover debris of dead sailors near Guam. I’ve sat with the winners and losers of wars and listened to stories from civilian employees, special ops and draft dodgers. All are equal to my ears.
Now, with the tactile poignancy of a brother in Afghanistan (expected home soon), who also toured Iraq, combined with a crust of cynicism from the recent US mid-term elections – and watching on-going domestic political squabbling while pragmatic advice is ignored and the fallen come home, I can offer no more reason to remember than the obvious. Flanders Field on endless loop, the narrative is still the same. No change, no evolution.
While my ballot apparently is not strong enough to spare lives, I can hope to change minds for the future by compiling the stories of those in the fray, both past and more recent.
Listen to Veterans
On this Remembrance Day, I’ve gathered two audio stories from wars, referred to anecdotally with names like the Great War, the Just War (and the Mistake War).
The first audio podcast features snippets from diaries written in the WWI trenches read by Ian Bell, the veteran’s grandson, on Remembrance Day – last year on the drizzly steps of the Library (with whiskey to keep us warm).
The second audio documentary includes musings from a US Navy officer who’d recently returned from Iraq. He doesn’t discuss the clumsy politics, weapons of missing destruction or casualties, but rather the everyday activities of eating and meeting locals.
Vimy Ridge Diaries on Remembrance Day
“On Remembrance Day in sunny, brisk Vancouver, Ian Bell (fresh from a CBC appearance “On The Coast“), joins Dave to read from Grandpa Mark’s diaries written in the trenches of WWI as a young Canadian. From the library steps with a flask of scotch, Ian and Dave reflect on the costs and motivations of war, the importance of friendship and the ethereal experience of going “over the top” and facing the terror on the other side. Their conversation features anecdotes about capturing Germans soldiers and a discourse on the importance of personal documentation to pass forward to generations.”
“With a US Naval Lieutenant at the table, Uncle Weed traces the history of the Tigris and Euphrates crescent and discusses the ground level experience of life in Iraq. Lt. Magnum explains his rebuilding mission to Kurdistan, plus his quests to various coalition bases including the Korean, Slovakian and Polish forces. Anecdotes includeHaliburton’s food, smoking hookah in Qatar, religious concessions, cables on marble walls, hiking the rolling hills and meeting local folks just getting by in a war-torn world.”
Remembrance Day Run – Hershey Harriers @ Brockton Oval
Remembrance Day Service – City Legion @ Grandview Park
Remembrance Day Service – Royal Canadian Legion #16 @ Memorial South Park
Remembrance Day Service – Japanese Canadian Memorial Society @ Japanese War Memorial, Stanley Park
Remembrance Day Service – Royal Canadian Legion #179 @ Victory Square Park
Finding Victory Square in post-ceremony calm, Dave settles onto a bench for lost sailors with some bagpipers to chat about John Macrae’s “Flander’s Field” poem and mull the tension between remembering noble effort and embracing jingoistic behaviour. This conundrum is evident in snippets of an essay by Stephen Osborne – The Poem and the Poppy – which relates the amazing grace of drinking gin with Gramps who was there – ‘in the void.’
In case you aren’t checking out the Postcards from Gravelly Beach spoken word literature podcasts i brew up (they ain’t for everybody i suppose), you may want to check out a wee series i am (finally) editing from last Remembrance Day (Nov. 2006).
Come on along as i start with a bowl of oatmeal and trek downtown to (ostensibly) congregate in some ceremony and end up hanging out reading the goods in Victory Park, at New Amsterdam cafe plus Gastown alleys and finally back on North Shore porch. Topics include white poppies, peace, non-peace, aggressions, human rights and human potential, art and culture, the conditions of the Downtown Eastside and life of a resistance fighter.
Not quite the regular Postcards from Gravelly Beach style but whatever, … check out the fist two episodes which sorta set the stage for the next half dozen episodes.