The ‘Walking With Our Sisters’ (WWOS) commemorative art instalment has arrived at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery as part of a national tour and is available to be viewed by the public until June 21st.
Thousands of vamps, the top part of a moccasin, and symbolic tobacco packages have been put together across Canada to recognize and honour the thousands of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and children of the country. As well, it pays tribute to the families and the community affected by these losses and promotes empowering women and making them feel safe.
Mandy Grifiths is a former Red Deerian who became involved with the local efforts in WWOS shortly before moving to Vancouver Island. She and her family came to visit Red Deer during the opening of the installation, and said it has been an emotionally packed experience.
“Walking through the installation is hard at first, and it’s overwhelming and it’s a struggle until you come around the corner and see the lodge. You feel hopeful. When you come around the other corner, there are good things. Everything is straightened out and brighter. It’s empowering me as a woman to see that, feel that, and experience that. It’s a big part of history,” Grifiths said.
“These women are human beings who had a life. They had a mom and a dad and were born into this world. They were loved and everything else, no matter what situation they had in their life, whether they went onto the streets or abuse – whatever.”
The installation has been laid out and arranged with extreme care and decisiveness. First, visitors may receive a ceremonial smudge cleansing prior to entering, and then begin to move into the exhibit. The first sets of vamps are from the east side of Vancouver, where a large amount of attention was first created on the issue.
The exhibit features a centrepiece area that has been dedicated in part to the families in the local area who have lost loved ones.
Located inside a symbolic lodge are the vamps representing children and babies.
“The hardest part is seeing the baby vamps because it’s hard to feel that they have either been beaten to death, or murdered or died while in care. It’s just hard. But, I know the lodge, too and it’s healing and it always feels good to me. It’s always home. It’s hopeful.”