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The Langham Cultural Society’s Expansive Vision
Kaslo, the dreamy village on Kootenay Lake, is home to a mere 1,000 full-time residents. In summer, tourists can grow the number up to five times that as people flock to festivals such as the Kaslo Jazz Fest, come to experience the best in backcountry experiences, and to take in the incredible, jaw dropping scenery.
The Langham Cultural Society is at the Heart of Kaslo
At the heart of this village lies the Langham Cultural Society. The Langham offers an opportunity to experience excellence in the visual, performing, and literary arts and cultural heritage not only to Kaslo, but the entire Nelson Kootenay Lake area, providing a multicultural dimension to our region.
An award-winning Canadian Heritage site, the Langham has housed a bottling plant, a bank and boat builders over its 120 year old history.
During World War II, 80 Canadians of Japanese descent were interned here. Finally, since 1974, in its latest incarnation, the Langham is a cultural centre and home to a Japanese Canadian Museum, two galleries, a small rural 80-seat theatre, fourteen artist studios, and a multi-purpose room for classes and workshops.
The Langham Belongs to the Wider World
The Langham has played an important role in preserving the history of Japanese Canadian internment in Canada during the Second World War. Its small commemorative museum tells the story of how the Canadian Government of the day confined Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during the war years. Thousands of Canadians were interned in small ‘ghost towns’ in BC’s interior after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in 1942. Kaslo was one of the many towns in BC which received large numbers of Canadians of Japanese descent. Over a thousand arrived on the shores of Kootenay Lake in the winter of 1942. In the 1980’s the Redress Movement was the final phase within the Japanese Canadian community’s struggle for justice and recognition as full citizens of this country. They asked for a review and amendment of the War Measures Act and relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that no Canadian would ever again be subjected to such wrongs. On September 22, 1988 Prime Minister Mulroney signed the Redress Agreement. This agreement is a prime example of a minority's struggle to overcome racism and to reaffirm the rights of all individuals in our Canadian democracy. With a strong commitment and encouragement from the Langham Cultural Society committee, the Village of Kaslo became the first municipality in Canada to offer an official apology to the Japanese Canadians in 1988.
“The Langham belongs to the world,” says Maggie Tchir, executive director of the Langham, “It belongs not just to Kaslo and Kootenay Lake but to the wider region and beyond. People from all over the world come to the Langham and by sharing our stories, the Langham, in turn, helps to sustain the dynamic cultural expression which thrives in the wider community and also lives at the Langham.”
To that end, the annual Asian Canadian Heritage Month celebrates Canadian Asian culture every May. And the current exhibition, “High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese,” runs until July 3, 2016, is an award-winning new media digital installation about Chinese immigration to British Columbia. It explores Chinese immigration and settlement in British Columbia which first began in large numbers in the 1850’s during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and continues to our current time. The exhibition was created by a team of Nelson and Vancouver artists including Nicola Harwood, and Fred Wah, former Poet Laureate of Canada, along with artists / performers, Bessie Wapp and Thomas Loh and composer Jin Zhang. Significant artistic contributions also came from Hiromoto Ida, Tomoyo Ihaya, Phillip Djwa, as well as many community members who contributed oral histories and stories, including Cameron Mah and Lawrence Mar.
The Langham’s Asian Series has a number of engaging talks and workshops coming up this summer. Poet Laureate, Fred Wah gave the first talk of the third annual Cafe Langham - Inspired Ideas Speaker Series titled, “Learning How to Swear Poetry in Chinese,” and in July, August and September there will be talks and workshops exploring The Art of Chinese Tea (Gong Fu Cha), Japanese and Chinese gardens, the immigration of the Chinese to the West Kootenay, and performances of dance and theatre by the celebrated multi-disciplinary Canadian actor, dancer and writer, Mark Kunji Ikeda from Calgary. He will also be leading a master class and youth class in movement and the imagination. His 2 performances of SANSEI: THE STORYTELLER, will be performed at the end of August.
Focus on Kaslo, Inside and Out
As the Langham moves into its 42nd year, the foundational commitment to the stewardship of this award-winning heritage building continues to build dynamic arts and cultural programming that both nods to its heritage elements and expands outward to invite the world to come for a visit.
In general, countless volunteer hours have been an ode to the Langham’s strength and perseverance, showing so clearly what commitment and dedication to a worthy cause can create. Like so many things in Kaslo, such as the Kaslo Jazz Festival, May Days, or the SS Moyie Sternwheeler, hard work and single-minded focus ensure extraordinary things can happen in this idyllic rural village setting.
The Langham in 2016 has reached a point where the foundations have been set. Engaging programming is now a standard. Venturing beyond Kaslo into the region, and even further to embrace British Columbia and beyond, the Langham offers to tell her story to the wider world.
Visit the Langham this Summer
If you can make a visit to the Langham this summer, do it. Seeing “High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese” and visiting the Japanese Canadian Museum is worth the visit alone. But the Langham is so much more. This cultural centre with its theatre, galleries and museum programs is not just an award-winning heritage site, but is also a vital part of Kaslo and the West Kootenay’s future.
“The Langham is not just a wonderful old heritage building. It is also a place of deep memories and the celebration of the creative imagination and human resilience. It is a source of continual inspiration for many”. A must see on your travels.