Odawa centre hosting mural workshop to combat racism

A mural workshop at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre this weekend aims to combat racism and teach ways to create positive, inclusive public art.

Decolonize Art is a response to the vandalism of murals created in honour of people of colour

RJ Jones organized Decolonize Art, a mural workshop at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

A mural workshop at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre this weekend aims to combat racism and teach ways to create positive, inclusive public art.

The Decolonize Art event will feature local graffiti artists discussing their work, conversations between people from different communities about challenging racism with art, and opportunities to get hands-on experience creating murals.

RJ Jones organized the workshop in response to the recent vandalism of downtown Ottawa murals that were created as memorials to murdered transgender women of colour and Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in a Texas jail.

'It's not a good thing, but it brings people together'

The tribute to Sandra Bland was defaced with a moustache and the words "All Lives Matter" in July. (Twitter)
"When someone is being racist and vandalizing murals, it's not a good thing, but it brings people together," said Jones. "And this is like the first time I've experienced multiple communities uniting in something that, I guess, touched them."

Jones and a friend actually saw the people who defaced the Bland memorial in late July.

"We were taking photos, and I was uploading it on social media, and we were trying to get people to come and give us paint to fix it up, because it was the right thing to do."

Hope to raise awareness of different cultures

The Decolonize Art workshop is open to the public, and organizers hope participants come away with ideas on how to collaborate with each other to raise awareness of different cultures here in the city.

"Just being able to share ideas and hey, this is how we're going to go about this, and it's okay in a safe environment to express to each other," said Jones.

The hope is to encourage people to confront racism in positive ways.

"You can't wait for someone else to take action. It's really to encourage people - if you see something happening, you have the power to do something about it."

Decolonize Art takes place from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre at 250 City Centre.