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Remembering James Uncle Jim Andersen from Makkovik

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Earlier today, a tweet from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami caught my attention : “On the passing of James “Uncle Jim” Anderson of #Makkovik #Nunatsiavut http://ow.ly/4psBo #Inuit”. Immediately, I was brought back to July 7th, 2009. Having just disembarked from the ship Lyubov Orlova, I was strolling down Makkovik‘s main street, camera on hand, when a man standing on his front porch flagged me down. I approached and he wanted to know if Hans Blohm, a friend of his, had disembarked. He was expecting him and wanted to make sure he didn’t miss him. Fortunately, I had met Hans and I was able to reassure him that he was on his way.

While waiting, we started chatting and the man introduced himself as “Uncle Jim”. He then proceeded to tell me that he had been a photographer in Makkovik for several decades. The year before, his photographs had been featured in a solo exhibit at The Rooms in St. John’s. It was his dear friend Hans who had helped him get his collection into the archives. Hans had started by approaching the National Archives in Ottawa but it was determined that Uncle’s Jim collection was better suited for the provincial archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. So today, that’s where Uncle Jim’s collection of photos and videos is preserved.

As we were waiting, Uncle Jim invited me inside his house and showed me several of his photos as well as a book he had published. His living room is filled with photographs and mementos from his family and life in Makkovik. He told me about his grandfather Torsten Andersen who was the first European to settle in Makkovik back in 1860. About 15 minutes later, we spotted Hans coming down the road. Hans and Uncle Jim were obviously happy to see each other. I was fortunate to be asked to take a few pictures to commemorate their reunion.

Hans Blohm and James "Uncle Jim" Andersen in Makkovik. July 2009.

Soon, Uncle Jim had to go to the Community Center to get ready for “the show”. Him and his sister Inga were to play music (another passion of his) for us later in the afternoon. A few more photos and Hans & I were on our way.

James "Uncle Jim" Andersen with some of Makkovik's youth.

Hans Blohm taking a picture of James "Uncle Jim" Andersen and some of Makkovik's youth. July 2009.

Later in the afternoon, we all gathered in the Community Center to attend the welcome reception the community had prepared for us. We were treated to local foods, arts, crafts, inuit throat singing, drum dancing and other Labrador traditional songs. Lots of atmosphere! The event ended with Uncle Jim (then 90) and his sister Inga (then 95), Makkovik’s two oldest residents, playing the accordeon and the organ. Between two songs, Uncle Jim also took the opportunity to do some story-telling. Here is the video I took of James & Inga’s performance.

Once I returned home from the trip, I mailed Uncle Jim a copy of the photos and video I took. A few days later, the phone rang. It was Uncle Jim from Makkovik. Even though, for several years now, he had been playing music every Sunday at church with his sister, Uncle Jim told me that this was the only recording he had of the two of them playing together. He was so grateful! A few weeks later, I received a CD in the mail entitled “Out on the land”, containing some of the footage he had recorded during their winter outings near Makkovik.

In February 2010, I received another unexpected call from Uncle Jim. His dear sister Inga had recently passed away and he was looking for an 8″ X 10″ photo of the two of them to hang in the community’s church. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any but by sending an email to the passengers of the Lyubov Orlova asking for their assistance, we were able to quickly gather a fair amount of photos which were sent to Uncle Jim. His wish had become a reality! It didn’t take long for me to receive another thank you call from Uncle Jim as well as a letter in which was included a copy of the Spring 2010 issue of the Labrador Life featuring an article he wrote on his sister. He missed her so much.

Bon voyage, Uncle Jim! It was an honour and a great pleasure sharing these few moments with you!
France

James "Uncle Jim" Andersen playing the accordeon. Makkovik Community Center. July 7, 2009.

Here are a few links, if you want to know more about Uncle Jim:

4 comments to Remembering James Uncle Jim Andersen from Makkovik

  • Ingo Peters

    This video is a great tribute to their musical legacy. When I saw these two playing it peaked my curiosity and I decided to search for a little more information. I found the history of the Makkovik community here: http://grahamblairdesigns.com/layouts/big_land_booklet.pdf

  • France

    Thank you, Ingo, for this most interesting link. Here’s another link I uncovered recently where you can watch the documentary “Till we meet again: Moravian music in Labrador”.

  • Ed Baum

    Just found this site. I made 2 trips to Makkovic to sample the salmon catch at the fish plant and stayed with Jim and Susi both times. I have a few photos of them and fond memories of helping Jim and Susi. I’ve been trying to connect with Maryola Andersen. I became friends with her Dad and went with him to check his salmon nets and jig for cod. There was a fishery officer named Anderson in Makkovik at the time too. Is he still alive? Thanks for a reply.

  • Jermaine Manning

    I am currently studying Political Science at Memorial University, while earning my degree I will also be working towards a Certificate in Aboriginal & Indigenous Studies which is how I stumbled across this wonderful post while doing some research. “Uncle Jim” was my grandfather and it is always wonderful to be reminded of his legacy. France, we briefly met in Ottawa last January at the Northern Lights Conference. I have recently finished reading your book “In the Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab” – awesome read and some really beneficial knowledge. I am only now learning to appreciate the wealth of knowledge that my grandfather had. There is so much that I am now learning about and the questions I do have I know my grandfather would have had the answers to. Nakummek for posting this.

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