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Red dress exhibit outside Nelson City Hall calls for justice for Indigenous women and girls

The REDress Project has also been installed in Touchstones gallery
Lesley Garlow, Indigenous educator at Touchstones Museum of Art and History, with two of many red dresses hanging outside Nelson City Hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Red dresses hang in the trees outside Nelson City Hall to remind us about missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The REDress Project, created by the Winnipeg Métis artist Jaime Black, also exists as an exhibit in the Touchstones gallery, running until May 29.

“There are over a thousand unsolved cases,” says Lesley Garlow, Indigenous educator at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History.

“We want to draw attention and awareness to the space these women maintain in their families,” she says. “Even though it is something that the general Canadian public might not think about, these women are missing from their families every day.”

Garlow officially opened the outdoor version of the exhibit on Friday.

The following video, by Adam O. Thomas for Touchstones Nelson, includes an interview with the artist.

“Indigenous women are the heart of our cultures and communities …,” says Black in the Touchstones video interview. “For thousands of years women were at the centre of the circle, creating balance and harmony in our communities.”

Since the time of colonization, Indigenous women have been targeted and the violence ignored, Black says.

Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Photo: Bill Metcalfe

“The REDresses stand with us as we reclaim our circles,” says Black, “reclaim our voices and re-imagine what it means to move forward in a good way.”

Black is a multidisciplinary artist of mixed Anishinaabe and Finnish descent whose “land art practice” is derived from spending time on the land and connecting to its stories and history.

The dresses have been exhibited for the past two years in many galleries across Canada and at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. They are a permanent exhibit in The Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Arin Fay, curator at Touchstones, says hosting the REDdress Project is one way for the organization to respond to the calls for action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

“I am incredibly happy that the City of Nelson agreed to let us install an iteration of this project in the public space,” Fay says.

“It is really important to have this in the public sphere so that people can interact with it in their own minds and from their own perspectives. It is really heartening and it has been a long journey getting it here.”

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The REDdress Project by Jaime Black is installed outside Nelson City Hall and in the gallery at Touchstones Museum of Art and History. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

Bill has lived in Nelson since 1994 and has worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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