This is a portrait of my friend Miranda Jimmy. She was brave enough to share with me her story of the trauma she has experienced as an intergenerational survivor of the residential school system.
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The idea for this particular painting began when I saw tree trunks that had been painted white in order to protect their bark from the intense sun. The concept of white as protection and the visual intrigue of something so natural being so sloppily painted over, illustrated for me a murky visual parallel with our own history. There are several ways to read this imagery and each opens up to a different dialogue. The white paint bleaches out Miranda's moccasins which are otherwise adorned in colourful intricate beading. This touches on the attempted assimilation of her culture. Being a woman with white painted legs, Miranda represents an aspect of our lack of investment in our missing and murdered Indigenous women. The imagery suggests that perhaps she is safer being painted white. There is a violence and sense of ownership in the action of being painted. Some of the trees surrounding Miranda have been cut down, and many still stand but they are almost all marked.
There is a white picket fence arbitrarily snaking through the forest creating a barrier. The fence painted with the same white paint requires the trees to not be protected, but rather to be cleared/resourced.
The painting is dark and Miranda almost blends in with the forest. This represents my feeling that I am in the dawn of my own understanding, and am just beginning to see as my eyes adjust to the information presented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Though she looks alone and maybe even lost in the painting, Miranda stands proud and holds a heart with the words "Love and Respect". After drawing together a group of people called RISE (Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton), she organized the planting of a heart garden consisting of 1000 hearts with words of hope and encouragement for reconciliation.
She is hellbent on stopping the cycle of abuse, and she has unlimited patience with those of us who are just starting to understand the truth of what went on in those schools.
Thank you to those who have found the bravery to share your story. It's a part of our combined history and it has become clear more than ever that Aboriginal issues are everyone's issues.