The REDress Project reminds us of the importance of Indigenous art

Photo by: Sandie Clarke

Starting on Feb. 13, red dresses will be hung around Brock’s campus for a week as a part of the artistic REDress project to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people (MMIWG2S+). 

Alongside the hanging of dresses, the Hadiya’dagénhahs – First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Student Centre – also hosted a series of Indigenous-led events on Feb. 14 to help educate community members, students and faculty members about the cause. 

Started by Métis artist Jaime Black in 2010, the REDress project has the aim of showing the general public the impact of MMIWG2S+. The hanging of empty red dresses signifies the clothing that victims of MMIWG2S+ would have worn. As they blow in the wind, the emptiness of the dresses and the sheer number of them becomes striking, resulting in this activist art project being particularly impactful and emotional. 

Along with the hanging of the dresses around campus, Brock hosted a day-long awareness event on Tuesday, Feb. 14th from 10 a.m until 3:30 p.m. that featured a series of art-related workshops, exhibits, and speakers. The event ran in two sessions with a lunch break in between which featured a traditional lunch and a speaker, Vanessa Brousseau, who shared their experience with MMIWG2S+. 

For the workshops, attendees had the choice between a mini Métis sash bookmark workshop, a seal skin bracelet workshop, a beaded red dress earring workshop or a beaded medicine pouch workshop. 

Those who were unable to attend one of the workshops were also able to visit a series of interactive, digital and still art exhibits, talk with visiting Elders or listen to Dr. Robyn Bourgeois – Brock’s Vice Provost of Indigenous Engagement – sing a traditional song. 

The REDress project and Brock’s event signify the importance of Indigenous art in raising awareness for causes like MMIWG2S+ as well as its ability to bring people together in the face of difficult conversations. 

Indigenous art forms,including those like beadwork, which is featured in two of the workshops, can act as a form of cultural expression, and further, as a means of keeping Indigenous cultural practices alive in the face of ongoing impacts of settler-colonialism within what is now known as Canada. For non-Indigenous individuals, participating in an Indigenous-led art workshop can act as both a form of cultural appreciation and learning. 

The red dresses will remain hung up around campus until Friday, Feb. 17th for students to be reminded to stop and reflect on the MMIWG2S+ crisis. Anyone interested in learning more about the cause can visit Jaime Black’s website or visit Hadiya’dagénhahs located near Market Hall in Thistle 145. 

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