The Sunday Magazine

'The World Remembers' art project honours the dead of WW I

Every day, the Canadian actor R. H. Thomson’s multimedia project publishes the names of soldiers who died on that date, exactly 100 years ago.
An image projected on to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa this year. (Submitted by R.H. Thomson)

This interview was originally aired on October 29, 2017. 

The great World War One poet Siegfried Sassoon begins his poem "Aftermath" in this way:

     "Have you forgotten yet? ...
      Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget." 

The multimedia memorial project "The World Remembers," produced by Canadian actor R. H. Thomson. honours the dead from dozens of nations around the world. (Courtesy R.H. Thomson)

Sassoon is referring to the 9.5 million soldiers who died in that gritty and brutal war. And it's as if he whispered those words directly into the ear of Canadian actor and playwright R. H. Thomson, whose memorial project The World Remembers honours the dead from dozens of nations around the world. 

Francis Pegahmagabow, decorated WWI sniper. Photo taken in Ottawa in 1945. (Courtesy R.H. Thomson)

Each year, the names of the soldiers who died exactly one hundred years ago on that day are projected onto public buildings and over the Internet. 

Soldiers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. (Courtesy R.H. Thomson)

The 2017 display included the 661,837 names of military personnel from 14 nations who lost their lives in 1917. 

This year the names will be displayed in 109 locations in Canada, the United States and the European Union.

A Japanese-Canadian soldier wearing a captured German hat. (Courtesy R.H. Thomson)

"The spark of the project is that we never remember the people," Thomson told The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright in conversation last year. 

"We remember them as four letters — t, h, e, m. And after a while I got a little uncomfortable remembering them."

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview. 

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