Innovative art exhibit to open on Haida Gwaii

  • Apr. 24, 2013 4:00 p.m.

submitted by Marnie Smith–A commemorative art installation for the missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada is coming to Haida Gwaii. Over 600 Native women in Canada were reported missing or murdered in the last 20 years. Many vanished without a trace. The inadequate inquiry into their disappearance or slaying paid by the media, the public, politicians and even law enforcement has created a travesty of justice. Walking With Our Sisters is a commemorative art installation of 600-plus moccasin vamps created and financially supported by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals across the country to draw attention to this injustice. It is with great honour that the Haida Gwaii Museum will host the opening of this travelling national exhibition August 23 to September 12. This historic and collaborative installation will be made up of beaded vamps arranged in a winding path formation on fabric. Viewers remove their shoes to ‘walk alongside’ the vamps and travel with the sisters and their legacies. Tobacco, available from beaded bentwood boxes, can be carried and deposited at both the start and end of the path and will be placed on a sacred fire, together with prayers, after each exhibit. With each pair of vamps representing one missing or murdered indigenous woman, the exhibition is guaranteed to be both moving and awe inspiring. This exhibition wishes to express that they have been cared for, they have been loved, they are missing and they have not been forgotten. It wishes to pay respect to their lives and existence on this earth, for they are our sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. Each vamp, an unfinished moccasin, will represent the unfinished lives of the women cut short by racism and/or violence. Collectively, the pathway of vamps represents both the women and our national shame. Moccasins are not only an international symbol of North American indigenousness, but are also symbolic of the way a person chooses to walk in life. In many indigenous cultures, moccasins are placed on the body in death to help the journey into the next life. Vamps are also a place on which to express our identity. Whether the adornment is with beads, quills, embroidery, weaving or appliqué, moccasins transport us through life conveying our vibrancy, resiliency and uniqueness to the greater world. As the first location in a multi- year tour, this 100 percent artist and community driven project seeks to gather local people to join in the tour in any form of participation they may desire. Walking With Our Sisters would like submissions of vamps in a “Haida Gwaii” style. Media are open-ended with only a template for size as a requirement. The tour is also compiling instrumental and traditional honour or grieving songs by various musicians that will play throughout the gallery as part of the installation. In addition, because of the nationally growing dialogue on this issue and this exhibition, we would like to expand the programming beyond it and invite community partners for ideas that might increase dialogue, perhaps discussion panels, round tables, youth workshops, student tours, and opportunities for elders and healers to engage with the public. We invite you, our community partners to become involved with the exhibition to raise awareness of this tragic issue and honour these women, who have passed on or remain missing. If you have any questions or ideas about how you might participate as an artist, educator, or healer or if you would like to donator towards funding the tour please feel free to call and I will gladly meet you at your convenience. On behalf of our collective, I am excited that Haida Gwaii was chosen to be the opening site of this nationally touring exhibit, ground breaking in its community driven methods. Visit our Facebook site or contact local curator Marnie Smith at or 559-8824 for more information or to discuss your ideas. Haaw’a!