Window art displays across Montreal highlight issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women

A Mohawk artist is highlighting the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Quebec with a series of 19 art displays that will be shown in window fronts across Montreal this summer.

'I wanted to bring it up and make it visible in the spaces that I could,' says Mohawk artist Hannah Claus

Hannah Claus stands in front of her MMIW-themed window display at Phonopolis records in Outremont, which is part of the art series Les fenêtres qui parlent. The statistic included in the display translates to, 'In Quebec, more than 75 per cent of Indigenous women under the age of 18 are victims of sexual assault.' (Les fenêtres qui parlent/Facebook)

Throughout the summer, artists will display new work in window fronts across the city of Montreal. It is part of the annual Les fenêtres qui parlent summer art project, which translates to "the windows that talk."

Typically set up along a single street in Montreal, this year's project will be displayed in windows across the city in all 19 neighbourhoods, to commemorate Montreal's 375th birthday.

Hannah Claus, an artist of Mohawk and English heritage, is one of the artists participating this year. She has been asked to contribute 19 different window displays — one for each neighbourhood.

"I decided that if I was going to do this, I wanted my windows to really speak about something that was important, and have them really talk," said Claus.

She decided to take on the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, in part because Claus feels it is an issue often not discussed in Quebec.

"The missing and murdered Indigenous women issue is something that is seen as not as prevalent in Quebec," she said. "In the headlines you see it as more so happening in the west and in B.C.

"I wanted to bring it up and make it visible in the spaces that I could."

Claus has labelled the series of displays "je me souviens," which translates to "I remember." She points out that the title is a deliberate take on the "motto of Quebec that you've seen on licence plates."

Not just a commemoration

Claus decided to create two different styles of windows. Some will commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women, while the rest will display statistics.

In 2015, Claus did a video project in which she filmed people from three First Nation communities — Odanak, Kanesatake and Kahnawake — as well as people from Montreal writing out the names of missing or murdered Indigenous women.

"This was a process where people really considered the names they were going to write … it was done with a lot of consideration and love," said Claus.

She kept the original copies of the handwritten names and decided to use them for this new project.

A window display created by Claus includes the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women, handwritten by First Nation people from Odanak, Kanesatake and Kahnawake. (Hannah Claus)

To mix it up, Claus is also creating window displays which feature statistics of the rates of violence Indigenous women in Quebec experience.

"[These windows] have more of a punch to the gut really … I didn't want this [project] to be just a commemoration," she said. "I wanted it to be understood as something that is a crisis, is ongoing and hasn't been resolved."

Claus's displays have already popped up in Rosemont and Outremont, where they stayed up for four days. The most recent display can be seen in the Pierrefond-Roxboro neighbourhood.

To keep track of the art on display, visit the Les Fenetres Qui Parlent page on Facebook.