MMIW: Whitehorse art installation commemorates the lost

It's a striking addition to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse - a giant painting of a woman dressed in colourful beaded moccasin tops, representing lost loved ones.

Large painting decorated with dozens of unique moccasin tops

A large piece of artwork has been installed at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, to commemorate the territory's missing and murdered indigenous women.

The collaborative piece consists of a giant painting of a woman who's dressed in vamps — moccasin tops sewn and beaded by Yukon women over the last year.

Women in Whitehorse started getting together to sew last January, before the "Walking with our Sisters" exhibit came to town in April. Beader Heather Dickson was hired by the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle to coordinate the sewing into a local project. 

"It was really uplifting to see support for such an uplifting project," Dickson said.

She said the sewing get-togethers in Whitehorse created a sense of community. Women talked about who they were sewing for, and shared stories. Some people sewed for specific women who have been murdered, or who are missing.

The art was created to have a visual representation of loved ones who have been lost. Dickson said it gave her chills to see the empty vamps. 

"It was like, wow, all these are empty. These women shouldn't be missing."

Dressed in love and attention

Tlingit artist Heather Callaghan was hired to turn the vamps into the final installation. She sketched some ideas and presented them to the sewers. They gravitated to the sketch of the woman.

Callaghan painted the woman, and decorated her with the vamps, "dressing her in all this love and attention," she said. She tried to represent all different areas of the Yukon in the piece, so that everyone who contributed had a voice.

"It was such a powerful, meaningful thing to be a part of," Callaghan said.

Dickson hopes the artwork inspires people to ask questions, and talk and think about the women who are gone, and why they are gone.

She also hopes it provides some comfort.

"I hope this can provide something for the families to go to, and feel like they're with their loved one," she said.