Our Coastline is Natural & Scenic
© Marlene Creates
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Materials: 3 b&w photographs, selenium-toned silver prints, hand written panel, pencil on matboard, and beach rocks.
Measurements: 70 x 79 in.; 177.8 x 200.7 cm; plus floor space
From the series 'Language and Land Use, Newfoundland 1994' (a series of 13 assemblages).
"In this whole area," the curator at the nearby museum told me, "they spread acres and acres of beach rocks for drying fish. The rocks, being round, leave air pockets between them," he explained, "and of course the sun heats them up. It's a French technique that comes from Brittany. This place was first settled by the French in the 1600s. Just four miles away there were English people and they used flakes for drying fish. Even where the oil tanks are, all that was what they called beaches. You see remnants of it everywhere and there's only one reason for the beach rocks to be there , it's because someone hauled them up there." He continued, "Most of the people who tended the fish were women. Women used to refer to it as working on the beaches. And down where the houses are, that was all beaches. There were no houses there then. All just a big mass of fish down around here, spread out on the beaches as far as the eye could see. The widows would be given preference to work on the beaches. They wore long black dresses and black sunbonnets. In those days there used to be quite a few widows, because if there was a schooner lost with all hands, as high as twenty-six people could go down with it." I met an elderly man who was taking a walk along the beach with his son and daughter-in-law. They were visiting from another part of Canada. The man told me his mother used to work all along here, supervising the fish-drying. "She was the boss of the beaches," he said.
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