"Wrapped Grasses", "Cedar Spears" and "Clan of Turtles" are all works in Charlene Vicker's show "Ominjimendaan", at Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery (Liz Garlicki)
On the far end of the room stand what look like a number of large cattails or wild prairie grass. Upon closer inspection I discover they are actually cotton strips wrapped around grass, dark tufts of human hair on the top and braided twine at the bottom.
Against the flanking walls are long cedar poles, pointed on each end. They rest stiffly against the wall, as if standing guard or waiting for some purpose. Perhaps to be used for hunting, to make a shelter or even to use as weapons.
Finally, through the middle of the room, a clan of turtles 'swim' across the floor. Their large dark backs like ancient beings surfacing, searching, traveling through space itself. Each one a different pattern, a story, a memory.
This is Ominjimendaan, a word that sounds like a meditation and means 'to remember' in the anishinabe language.
The installation by artist Charlene Vickers is meant to evoke healing for those who have experienced loss or who are looking for someone who is missing, particularly the 600+ Indigenous women in Canada who have been killed or who are missing. It is meant as a place of remembrance and reverence.
But here in this quiet space, the only thing I feel is anger. We as Indigenous women are under attack. Not just by the rapists and serial killers that stalk us on the streets, in Vancouver and now here in Winnipeg.
But also by a disbelieving media who paint us up as sex-trade workers and drug addicts. By a police force that continues to ignore us and say there is no problem even as the bodies pile up. By ineffective governments who are only interested in photo ops with head dresses and hand shakes and by a willfully ignorant and anonymous public who would sooner bury us all.