Walking With Our Sisters

MNO citizen honours missing, murdered Aboriginal women with moccasin exhibit

Walking With Our Sisters Moccasins
Some of the moccasin tops donated for the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit.

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen and renowned Métis artist Christi Belcourt is using her creative talents to support the social movement working to end violence against Aboriginal women. Belcourt has initiated Walking with Our Sisters, a travelling exhibition of beaded moccasin tops, each pair commemorating a missing or murdered Aboriginal woman.

The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is disproportionally high when compared to the general population. Over the last 20 years, this has involved over 800 Aboriginal women and girls and although many have called for a national inquiry, the federal government has rejected the idea. Walking With Our Sisters is both a memorial and a call to action over this long-simmering issue.

Walking With Our Sisters Exhibit
Walking With Our Sisters exhibit in Regina, Saskatchewan at the First
Nations University .

Launched in 2013, Walking With Our Sisters is a 100 per cent artist driven commemorative art instillation project that seeks to honour the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The project came to life when Belcourt made a Facebook appeal in hopes to assemble a show of 600 pairs of hand-made moccasin tops. To her surprise, she received overwhelming support and received 1,723 pairs from all over the world. The appeal also sprung 65 beading circle projects where many people learned the craft for the first time and provided the opportunity for community-based dialogue on the issue.

A truly collaborative project, Walking With Our Sisters is an entirely crowd-sourced project. From the artwork, to the fundraising, even to the way the exhibit tour is being booked, it is all being fueled by hundreds of people who have chosen to become involved.

Christi Belcourt
MNO citizen, artist Christi Belcourt.

The installation of the exhibit consists of the more than 1,700 pairs of donated moccasin tops from 1,372 people. The moccasin tops are installed in a winding path on cloth over a gallery floor. Each moccasin top represents an indigenous women or girl who is missing or has been murdered. Sometimes called “vamps”, “tongues” or “uppers”, the tops of the moccasins are intentionally not sewn into moccasins to represent the unfinished lives of the women they honour. Each exhibit is specific and unique to the space it is being held in. The exhibits are also installed following specific ceremonial protocol and traditions of the communities with the help of volunteers and elders.

“This project is about these women, paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth,” wrote Belcourt. “They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunties, grandmothers, friends and wives. They have been cared for, they have been loved, and they are missing.”

“What I’m hoping this exhibition will do, with the scope of the work, the amount of artists combined and with audience participation, is that it will contribute in a positive way to the dialogue about this issue,” stated Belcourt in a previous interview.

It has been said that in the darkest of times, Métis beadwork was more vibrant as creating beautiful works was a way of countering the dark. This is particularly evident in the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit.

The exhibit is scheduled to make stops in more than 30 locations across Canada and the United States, with organizers currently booking dates into 2019. Upcoming Ontario exhibits are being held in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

When attending the exhibition, visitors are asked to take off their shoes before walking on paths of cloth that run alongside the tops.

For more information and tour dates visit: http://walkingwithoursisters.ca/

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