Today we visited an exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Shame and Prejudice – A Story of Resilience. It was created by the brilliant artist Kent Monkman as a project for the Art Museum at the University of Toronto in 2014. Kent is a Canadian First Nations artist of Cree Ancestry whose maternal Grandmother was a survivor of the Brandon residential school in Manitoba. He writes, “I could not think of any history paintings that conveyed or authorized Indigenous experience into the canon of art History…Could my own paintings reach forward a hundred and fifty years to tell our history of the colonization of our people?” The answer is that with his moving and powerful paintings indeed they have. He is a true master in the same tradition as Giotto, Caravaggio and Picasso.
I could write so much more about how this exhibition has affected me particularly after the completion of my leaves drawn to represent the children separated from their parents by the US Government. After seeing Kent’s work today and seeing his painting The Scream with the children being taken from their parents by our own Canadian Government and placed in residential schools hundreds of miles away from their families and homes, I realize that my own work is no way complete.
Today I have reembarked on the leaf drawings once again so that the final piece will include an acknowledgment of our own shameful history to represent how Canada failed the children of this country in a manner as cruel and inhuman as the treatment of the children of families seeking asylum by our neighbours to the south.