Canada Council Digital Originals

Virtual candy box confronts colonialism's legacy with barbed wire maple candies

Artist Leah Decter spent part of the pandemic lockdown building a virtual candy box with treats that address everything from language rights to the hanging of Louis Riel.

A tongue, barbed wire and a noose are part of the Oh-oh Canada maple candy collection

Artist Leah Decter has converted her "unsettling" Oh-oh Canada candy collection into a virtual box. (Leah Decter)

Artist Leah Decter spent part of the pandemic lockdown building a virtual candy box with treats that address everything from language rights to the hanging of Louis Riel.

"I really want people who visit the site to have a visceral interaction with the virtual candy — an experience that in some way replicates taking it out of the box, holding it in your hand and being drawn to eat it," says Decter.

She had seven other artists design candies for the project, which she started prior to the pandemic. A few years ago, she handed them out to people as part of her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen's University.

More recently, she set to work making the candies available virtually as 3D models.

In the box, a bison "to honour the memory of the bison and its resilience," from Adrian Stimson; a tongue to acknowledge the loss of Indigenous languages from Lisa Myers; as well as barbed wire, a heart and a noose are the items in the box.

Each artist's candy reflects an important story that's missing or underrepresented, Decter says.

"I often use familiar forms of Canadiana in my artwork in order to draw attention to the ways they contribute to our understanding of who we are as Canadians," she says. 

The barbed wire candy, shown here in 3D modelling process was designed by Cecily Nicholson. (Leah Decter)

The maple candies, in this case, were used to point out the way maple syrup "reinforces colonial beliefs and practices," she says.

There's also an association between sugar and medicine, Decter adds, "and in the material aspect of the project, people actually ingest the stories."

The project can be seen on the Oh Oh Canada website.

À lire en français sur le site de Radio-Canada.

This story is part of Digital Originals, an initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts. Artists were offered a $5,000 micro-grant to either adapt their existing work or create new work for the digital world during the COVID-19 pandemic. CBC Arts has partnered with Canada Council to feature a selection of these projects. You can see more of these projects here.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now