A commemorative art project dedicated to honouring the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada and the U.S. is making its way to the Wheat City later this month.
The crowd-sourced project, which is entitled “Walking With Our Sisters” involves the creation of moccasin tops (vamps) and currently features more than 1,800 pairs of vamps created and donated by the public.
Local artist Cathy Mattes, one of the lead organizers in bringing the project to Brandon, says she was contacted via Facebook several years ago by a fellow colleague looking to raise awareness of the issue. Several people got on board with the project and eventually Walking With Our Sisters began touring Canada. The project is coming to Brandon for the first time late February.
“Brandon is a perfect place for this project to come,” Mattes told the Journal. “I feel firmly that art can play an important role in educating the public about different sorts of issues that arise all the time. It can be used as a healing and development tool as well. So I think for me, that’s really important regarding the project.”
The vamps are intentionally not sewn into moccasins to represent the 1,180-plus women or girls who have been murdered or gone missing since 1980.
“I think that’s such an injustice that needs to be addressed in multiple ways so this art project is one way,” Mattes added. “I think there’s a very strong history of colonization and with colonization comes gender imbalances and racism and it can lead to violence against indigenous women and it has and continues to do so.”
The art project originally got started by Metis artist Christi Belcourt, a person Mattes met years ago while organizing an art exhibition about Louis Riel, the founder of the province of Manitoba and a political leader of the Metis people in the Canadian prairies for years.
“Several years ago, Christi was working as a journalist for a newspaper and that’s the first time I spoke with her,” Mattes said looking back. “She was interviewing me and over time, we became friends and peers.”
The project will be housed in Brandon University’s “Down Under” space for the duration of its stay and it’s expected that there will be extended programming taking place before and during the exhibition, including workshops and elder teachings.
Mattes is hoping the art installation, which takes place Feb. 22 - March 6, can be an initiator of conversation and can leave a lasting mark on the city.
“What we’re really hoping is that people of all ages come to honour women and their families,” she added. “What we’ve seen so far is a lot of support and interest in the region and I firmly believe that there’s going to be some good actions coming out of the project.”
For more information on the project, contact Mattes at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the Walking With Our Sisters group on Facebook.