Toronto illustrator Evan Munday has decided to stop a memorial project he began last week aimed at drawing attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.
He made the decision after hearing from some of the women's families about his daily tweets that featured an illustration of one of the missing or murdered women.
“I believe I cannot continue the project in a way that respects these women’s autonomy, or a way that helps rather than harms the families of these thousands of women,” Munday said in a statement posted on his website.
Munday was tweeting one black and white illustration every day to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Twitter account @pmharper. The images are part caricature, part comic-book style. They were created from photos Munday found online. He used ink and brushes to create a total of eight images of the more than 1,200 women who are currently listed in the RCMP’s database as missing or murdered.
“They felt the illustrations themselves were very problematic, because cartoon drawings denoted, to them, fun and jokes. ‘There is nothing funny or cute or joking about my mother being killed by the police. My journey for justice for the past 13 years has never been fun,’ said one family member,” according to Munday’s statement.
Lift & amplify voices of families of MMIW & grassroots community based orgs. Would u cartoonize your dead mom or sister?— @ShugaCreeN8V
Each of Munday’s illustrations, tweeted from his Twitter account @Idontlikemunday, received more than 250 retweets. He said concerns were raised that his project was receiving a lot of attention and could be hampering indigenous-led efforts.
@idontlikemunday i enjoyed your project and you had good intentions. as an indigenous woman, i appreciate the awareness you brought to MMIW.— @lizotte17
Métis author Gregory Scofield has been tweeting a name a day for the past two years. He was in support of Munday’s project but said, "I understand why some would take offence to the renderings of their loved ones being done in a cartoon form."
“The names and photographs of #MMIW that I tweet daily serve as a reminder that our women, our sisters are not invisible,” wrote Scofield in an online interview, adding, “Evan may have had a similar idea, although the use of his work is a political statement the media has unfortunately focused on.”
Munday was tweeting his illustrations to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and supports a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Harper has said an inquiry “isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest.”
He said he has realized that the call for an inquiry isn’t supported by all indigenous people.
Bernadette Smith, whose sister Claudette Osborne-Tyo went missing in July 2008, thinks the treatment of aboriginal women has been studied thoroughly enough.
"That report that came from the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] was very thorough and outlined actions that can be implemented today,” said Smith, who supported Munday’s efforts.
Activist Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, an event organizer for the national day of remembrance for missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg said she thinks Munday had good intentions in bringing awareness to people via Twitter.
But she added, "When we are dealing with the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, we must always proceed with engaging the families and respecting their wishes."
As for Munday, he has asked his Twitter followers to consider donating to indigenous-led organizations for missing and murdered indigenous women and their families.
If you liked the project, please consider following the orgs I tweeted abt & donating to It Starts with Us (http://t.co/rj2HmV2DnG). (8/11)— @idontlikemunday