As survivors and loved ones of victims recount memories of loss, abuse and resilience during the final stretch of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls this week in B.C., others are choosing to depict their experiences through contributed artwork.
Petra Turcotte is the senior archivist tasked with curating dozens of paintings, poems, songs and other artwork contributed by Indigenous people during the past year as the inquiry toured through 15 communities across the country.
As the inquiry comes to a close in Richmond this week, Turcotte told Black Press Media that each piece of artwork displays experiences that for many are hard to put into words.
“To tell a stranger your truth is very challenging, and a lot of people can’t do that,” she said. “This offers a way for people to express their truth in a very safe and secure environment, yet be able to share with the nation and with the people… and contribute to that.”
A thousand women and allies have spoken on the racism, violence and discrimination they’ve faced during community hearings across the country, heard by Commissioners who will take these stories and determine recommendations to the federal government in a detailed report in the New Year.
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The dozens of pieces collected – some dropped off during community hearings and others mailed to the headquarters in Manitoba – will accompany the testimony from survivors and families of victims who wished to share their truths throughout the inquiry.
“I think Indigenous art in particular has a huge role in how it can translate to culture and traditional knowledge,” Turcotte said, adding it’s often used as a form of resistance and a way of bringing awareness of historical truth.
With the federal government yet to decide if the national inquiry will get an extension, Turcotte said the organizers will soon determine what happens with the contributed pieces.
Turcotte said they’ll be turned into a legacy exhibit of some kind, and hopes the pieces will be used for both outreach and education.
“A lot of youth engage better through education and art,” Turcotte said.
“It helps people become aware of the things going on in their own backyards.”