Giving a voice to the missing and murdered aboriginal women—and their families and friends—is the focus of artistic workshops running next week at the Sunset Country Métis Hall.
“The Remember Me project started back in October, and it’s just bringing awareness about the missing aboriginal women, and then doing art healing workshops with family members, friends of the missing women,” explained Serene Spence, project assistant with Beedaubin Resources of Thunder Bay which has been leading the workshops across the region.
“So we’re trying to take a more active approach, a more positive [approach],” she added.
Focusing on four different communities—Thunder Bay, Kenora, Fort Frances and Sioux Lookout—Beedaubin Resources’ artistic director, Alice Sabourin, is visiting each location, Spence explained, holding the workshops where youth, artists, families and community members can come out and participate in the painting of a large canvas in dedication to all the missing and murdered women, as well as other crafts—beadwork, collage, and more.
“And then also we’re going to have some of the photos and beadwork that already have been done on display,” she added.
Locally, the workshops will run locally from August 9-12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sunset Country Metis Hall (426 Victoria Ave.)
Once the all workshops are all wrapped up, community symposiums to showcase all the artwork that has been created are planned for later on in the year, Spence explained.
Sabourin is also working on creating a film that documents the stories of families.
Also upon completion, all the created works will be presented to schools, the police, Crown Attorneys, judges, policy makers and youth organizations, Spence explained, to show the impact that the loss of these women has had.
In Canada, there are more than 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls according to data and research gathered by the ‘Sisters In Spirit’ initiative, which is led by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Sixty-two names were added to this list within the past year.
While most communities have things such as the Full Moon Memory Walk, or the Sisters in Spirit Vigil, these only happen two, three times a year, Spence said—which is one of the reasons they began an ongoing project like this one.
“We started doing fashion shows, and celebrating women,” she explained about the early part of the project. “And we started doing fashion shoots with the youth as the models—and so we took some of those images and we started making posters with tag lines on them, such as ‘protect our women,’ or ‘keep our women safe’—stuff like that.”
They are hoping to mass produce and distribute these posters across the region.
Meanwhile, these workshops are an opportunity to do outreach to the families and friends of the missing and murdered women—as well as at-risk youth.
And while the project is about giving a voice to the loss of these families, it’s also for those who want to share their positive messages of hope and strength.
“The missing posters—that are posted up everywhere—sometimes that’s painful for the family members to see all the time, of the missing women,” said Spence about the reaction of the families they have spoken to, who have told them that this project is a positive approach.
“They tell us to keep going, keep going with this momentum that we have. They’re just happy that we’re doing what we’re doing,” she added.