Virtual Witness To Oppression – Online Canadian Blanket Depicts Tragedy Of Residential School System | Alternative Fruit
Pretty much every nation has a few stories in the history book that many would like to forget. Unfortunately, forgetting about things that make us uncomfortable only allows the circumstances to be repeated. No, we have to accept and learn then set a better example. How can we do the right thing in these cases? Honesty and openness seem to be the order of the day.
During Canadian history, between the years 1870 and 1996, young indigenous people from the area were forced to attend what was called Residential School. Here they were taken from the family and culture and subjected to a Western and White Canadian indoctrination. No-one was allowed to speak their mother tongue and their heritage was made to look irrelevant. How can we not take it personally when the essence of who we are is blatantly ignored?
Around 150,000 individuals were taken from their roots and forced to grow in a completely different soil. The way in which everything learned so far was shamed then replaced with new ideas that belittled the old had long lasting trauma and effected the self-esteem and self-worth of so many. Something that has been done by the Canadian people is to provide space for what's called The Witness Blanket.
This 12 meter long wooden structure holds many items from the Residential School Period. With letters, photos, bits of building, and other related items, an holistic picture of life in these times can be built in the mind. Originally toured around the country, Canadians from all over the nation have had the opportunity to see the artwork for themselves and pay respect to those it remembers. The piece was assembled by visual artist and university professor Carey Newman. Carey has Kwakwaka'wakw heritage.
Canada is huge. It also contains many areas that are a long way from modernity. In wilderness areas, people gladly make their home. It sounds lovely, we've all seen the viral posts about who wants to leave society and live in this cabin with me. For some the dream is real, and yes the hard work surely follows. It's a dream for a reason.
This fact of Canadian life means that so many people are simply unable to get to see valuable and important cultural artefacts like The Witness Blanket. In order to make sure it's truly for everyone, a version has been created in virtual reality. Sections were individually scanned and uploaded into a 3D display which allows people to visit online. With the use of VR goggles, we can even walk around and really study it.
Putting the 800 plus artefacts into one huge image took a lot of skill sets. Artists of course do not always know about building virtual reality space. Camosun Innovates is a VR college project based on Vancouver Island. These technicians have taken on the job of putting the blanket into digital. The mixture of donated and reclaimed possessions and objects is usually set behind see-through plastic but in the virtual reality version the items are available to reach out and touch.
We all deserve to experience art in multiple ways, and material that speaks directly to our own difficult past can be the most enlightening. By proudly showing off the piece, new generations can really get a sense of what responsibility feels like and how to handle the mistakes we inherit. When it's finished, people of the Canadian First Nations will be the first on the list to get involved.
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