Community celebrated in feast of words and pictures – The Cowichan

The Cowichan: Duncan, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Region - Cowichan News Leader & Pictorial book review.
The Cowichan: Duncan, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Region - Cowichan News Leader & Pictorial book review.

Community celebrated in feast of words and pictures

by Peter Rusland – Cowichan News Leader and Pictorial
Published: November 03, 2009 6:00 AM

There is life over the Malahat.

It’s chronicled in the photos and stories gracing The Cowichan, a coffee-table book by writer Georgina Montgomery and lensman Kevin Oke.

The two locals launch their 143-page work Thursday at Duncan’s Bistro 161 where valley wines will be showcased.

Vineyards are only one aspect of the Warm Land’s past and present explored in Montgomery’s research and illustrated by 150 photos by Oke and a few others.

“I came up with the outline and Kevin asked me for a photo wish list,” she said of the project started in 2007.

“The Cowichan reflects the flavor of the area; a bit of the past and lots of what’s going on now.”

But Montgomery kicks herself for not exploring Cowichan before now.

“I became appalled that all these years I drove through the Cowichan Valley and didn’t know the scope and depth of what’s here — like the arts and festivals — yet there’s this small-town feel that’s so nice.”

The native Montrealer hopes The Cowichan offers something for everyone.

“For people who don’t know this area I’m saying, ‘Look what I’ve discovered.’

“For those who live here, I hope they read it and find some sense of pride in what I’ve captured and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be some details they didn’t know.”

Details about Cowichan’s Natives, settlers, loggers, and how that past morphed into a Mecca for tourists, retirees, artists, organic farmers and business people.

“This book shows just how beautiful and culturally exciting a place it is,” said Nikon shooter Oke, 51.

“Cowichan has it all and hopefully we won’t have what happened to the Gulf islands that have become yuppified,” he said.

Montgomery said she found “a perfect little city (Duncan) and pockets within pockets.”

“You go up a road and all of a sudden you’re in a Shangri-La you wouldn’t have found if you hadn’t ventured off the highway strip.”

She and Oke met on Pender Island 20 years back.

They kept in touch, both moving here in recent years.

Oke was asked by Harbour Publishing to do another book after he issued The Enchanted Isles.

The lens lifer began shooting The Cowichan two years ago and Montgomery agreed to pen the text.

“Georgina and I came up with game plan of what we wanted to cover and we pretty much stuck to it.”

Valley newcomer Montgomery researched, wrote and edited 40,000 words in a year using both modern and historical sources such as the Cowichan Leader archives.

“But I began peeling back the layers and it was a total discovery for me,” she said, calling Cowichan “a feast.”

“That word captures everything I was reading about its recreation, arts and culture, history, culinary and food — a celebration of the overall region, and Kevin’s photos are also a feast for the eyes.”

Your ticket:

What: Book launch of The Cowichan

When: Nov. 5, 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: Bistro 161, 161 Kenneth St., Duncan

Tickets: Free. Call 250-748-1533


  1. Thanks so much Lisa. It would have been great to have you up here but it would be a long drive. You certainly missed a great party, everyone was so enthusiastic. Makes a few years of work all seem worthwhile.

    I put my photo presentation on the web site at for everyone’s enjoyment.