May 26th, 2024

REDress Project on display at MHC offers visual representation of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

By LAUREN THOMSON Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 3, 2021.

An art show is on display in Centennial Hall at Medicine Hat College until Dec. 6, one that serves as a visual reminder of the many murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls across Canada. Inspired by the work of Métis artist Jaime Black, The REDress Project is "based on an aesthetic response to the more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada."--NEWS PHOTO BY LAUREN THOMSON

An art show on display at Medicine Hat College serves as a visual reminder of the many murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Placed around Centennial Hall, hanging loose and empty, are more than 40 red dresses of various shapes and sizes, representing murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

On display until Dec. 6 and open to the public under the Restrictions Exemption Program, the art show was inspired by the work of Jaime Black, Winnipeg-based Métis artist, who launched The REDress Project in 2010.

David Restoule, Indigenous Student Specialist at Medicine Hat College and a member of the Ojibway tribe, spoke to the News.

“The REDress Project was launched by artist Jaime Black as a way to draw attention to the lost and missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women across Canada,” explained Restoule.

While Black launched the project in 2010, Restoule said the college has been participating with its own collection of red dresses for four or five years. He said they have also lent the collection out to other organizations, including the Miywasin Centre, for similar displays.

“We put it up a few different times in the year,” said Restoule. “I always put it up this particular week in conjunction with the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society. We put it up from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6 because Nov. 25 marks the start of the 16 days of action against gender based violence and then on Dec. 6 the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society has a vigil planned.”

The display also includes small red paper dresses which are written on and clipped to dresses or hung around the hall.

“We have those set out there, little cutouts of red dresses that someone can write a personal message or if they’ve lost a loved one, or know of a loved one through a friend,” said Restoule. “They might have a name they want to put on these little red dresses.”

A table and board in the hall displays facts about violence against Indigenous women and children.

One paper states: “Native Women’s Association of Canada gathered information regarding 582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Of these: 67% are murder cases (death as the result of homicide or negligence), 20% are cases of missing women or girls, 4% are cases of suspicious deaths – deaths regarded as natural or accidental by police, but considered suspicious by family or community members and 9% are the cases where the nature of the case is unknown – it is unclear whether the woman was murdered, is missing, or died in suspicious circumstances.”

A statement from the artist is also included.

“A visual art installation project with strong ties to the community and broader public, The REDress Project is based on an aesthetic response to the more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Drawing attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women, the installation seeks to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.”

Black added in the statement that red is an important sacred colour of Indigenous groups across Canada and is believed to be the only colour spirits can see. She hopes her project will inspire local organizations to launch similar public installations and to create more awareness and understanding about the tragedy of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

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