Art installation paying tribute to MMIW stops in Brandon next month

An indigenous art installation that commemorates the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women will stop in Brandon next month.

Walking With Our Sisters will be on display at Brandon University between Feb. 22 and Mar. 6, 2016

An art installation comprised of more than 1,800 moccasin tops, currently on display in North Battleford, Sask., will make its way to Brandon, Man. next month. (Erin Marie Tankupine/Facebook )

An indigenous art installation that commemorates the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women will stop in Brandon, Man. next month.

Walking With Our Sisters features more than 1,800 vamps, the decorative tops of moccasins, laid out in a design that will take viewers down a winding pathway. The display also commemorates children that died in Canada's residential school system. 

It's currently on display in North Battleford, Sask. and will open at Brandon University on Feb. 22. 

Cathy Mattes and Roberta McKinnon are part of the committee organizing the Brandon leg of the tour. 

"The initiator of the art project, Christi Belcourt, pictured an art exhibition that featured just the vamps to represent the lives of the missing and murdered indigenous women [that] are unfinished," said Mattes, who works at the university's Indigenous People's Centre. "Each local community comes together and organizes the event and this is what Roberta and I have been lucky enough to participate in."

For McKinnon, the installation has a personal connection. 

"I have friends that are missing, a niece that is missing,"McKinnon added. "Something I feel very strongly about... We are at risk more than other people." 

Mattes said the main goal of the installation is to honour the country's missing and murdered indigenous women, but also to engage the community in art and teaching and other traditions. 

There are many different materials that can go into a vamp, according to Mattes. Aside from beads, she said some have quill work, fish scale work, tafting and abstract painting. They can be applied to leather, velvet or other types of material. 

Mattes said Belcourt initially put the call out for about 1,200 vamps in June of 2012. By mid 2013, more than 1,800 had been received. 

"Art is a catalyst for social change," Mattes, who also makes vamps, added. "It can educate, it can engage, it can make communities stronger."

"What's been so wonderful is people have stepped up, people are very energetic about having this project here in Brandon and wanting to get involved," said Mattes. "We've really seen the best of the community." 

"I think all of the time about the 1,200 plus women and girls and that's a lot of loss for communities and nations and families," said Matte. 

The exhibit opens on Feb. 22, 2016 at Down Under at Brandon University. It will remain open until March 6, 2016.