Indigenous victims of violence and injustice honoured in unique Edmonton art exhibit
Creators hope it will also educate and inform
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous People art installation and awareness project is striking to the eye, and that's the intention.
The exhibit, which opened at the Parkdale Cromdale Community League rink on Tuesday, is bathed in red light and features sounds, symbols and a ceremonial fire.
The idea was sparked by community league president Kevin Wong.
"My partner and I were listening to the news, they're talking about how many Indigenous people are missing and being murdered in Canada, and we felt like we needed to do something on the local level," he said.
"We were trying to figure out what we can do to raise awareness and this is what we came up with."
Wong teamed up with the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to create the installation. Executive director Cheryl Whiskeyjack was floored when Wong approached her with the idea.
"When I first met with him I had no idea what it was about," she said. "He's an engineer, he was able to do a really awesome computer rendering of this display, which really evoked so much feeling for me, just to see what he was envisioning."
Whiskeyjack was moved that someone like Wong wanted to create the exhibit.
"Being approached in that way by a non-Indigenous community member who thinks this is an important issue to bring to the forefront, really meant a lot to me and to the people I was able to bring into the fold," she said.
Whiskeyjack recruited people who are well-versed on the issues and said she believes the final result sends a strong message.
"First of all we don't want women to go missing," she said. "When they do, we want this issue to be taken as seriously as it would be if anyone else went missing, and that is something that we haven't seen."
Wong also included photos of victims as part of the installation.
"Behind every picture that's being displayed here, there's a heartbreaking story of a family still waiting for their loved one to return or seeing their loved one being recovered from a field or river," he said.
"It's a tragedy in Canada and we need to do something about it. We need to keep making noise and we need to keep the public informed."
Whiskeyjack believes that attitude, along with a number of other developments are resulting in some progress.
"I think we're starting to see a lot more interest from regular Canadians on some of the issues that we're facing as Indigenous people," she said.
Whiskeyjack thinks the creation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and recent discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools have brought attention to the situation.
"All of these things have woke people up to a history that they maybe heard a little bit about but really are interested in hearing a lot more about now, now that they know."
The installation, located at 11335 85th St., will be open to the public until Oct. 17.