REDress Project

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The REDress Project at Acadia University in 2015.

The REDress Project by Jaime Black is a public art installation that was created in response to the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) epidemic in Canada and the United States. The on-going project began in 2010 and commemorates missing and murdered indigenous women from the First Nations, Inuit, Métis (FNIM), and Native American communities by hanging empty red dresses in a range of environments.[1] The project has also inspired other artists to use red to draw attention to the issue of MMIW, and prompted the creation of Red Dress Day.

Background[edit]

Jaime Black identifies as Métis, an ethnic group native to parts of Canada and the United States of America, which traces their descent to both indigenous North Americans and Western European settlers. Black was working at the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art gallery in Winnipeg when she attended a conference in Germany. She heard Jo-Ann Episkenew speak about the hundreds of missing and murdered women in Canada.[2][3]

Black proposed to include a display of red dresses in a workshop at the University of Winnipeg’s Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies. Black says the image of an empty red dress hanging outside came to her whilst listening to Episkenew speak, but has since identified an influence from the book cover of Métis author Maria Campbell's novel The Book of Jessica.[3] The university agreed with Black's proposal, and helped her source the dresses.[2]

To date more than 400 dresses have been donated by women across Canada.[4] Families of missing or murdered women have contributed dresses, and attended some of the exhibitions.[3]

Symbolism[edit]

Art installation inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black at Seaforth Peace Park, Vancouver, Canada on the National Day for Vigils for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women 2016.

Black chose the colour red after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her red is the only colour the spirits can see. "So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community".[5] Black has also suggested red "relates to our lifeblood and that connection between all of us",[4] and that it symbolises both vitality and violence.[6]

The dresses are empty, so that they evoke the missing women who should be wearing them. Black has said: "People notice there is a presence in the absence".[4][6][7]

Whilst some installations of the dresses have been indoors, the preferred space for the installation is outdoors. When outside, the dresses interact with nature, drawing the eye of passersby and introducing them to the MMIW issue through information panels.[4] Some critics feel the installation is more powerful in natural environments,[6] but others have highlighted the impact within the urban environment in emphasising this is not purely a rural issue.[7]

Installations[edit]

The installation has been exhibited in more than 30 locations around Canada, and varies based on location.[3] In 2019, it had its first exhibition in the United States of America. Notable installations include:

Influence on others[edit]

In 2017, 17-year-old Cree head young lady jingle dancer Tia Wood asked other dancers at the Gathering of Nations Powwow to wear red as part of a special, old-style jingle dance, which is a type of healing dance, out of respect for missing and murdered indigenous women[4] and to raise awareness of the epidemic.[12] The Red Dress Jingle Special she organised has continued to be presented at pow-wows ever since.[13]

A Mi’kmaq woman by the name of Sasha Doucette photographs pieces of red clothing in her hometown of Eskasoni.[4][14] Originally, she placed red dresses for the women and red ribbon shirts for the men at the sites where they have been murdered, but she has also started doing the same for people who have not died of violence, but whose deaths could have been otherwise prevented.[14]

Buffy Sainte-Marie has been inspired by the project to hang a single red dress up on stage at her concerts.[15] In July 2019, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tanya Tagaq, and Maxida Märak prominently displayed a single red dress on stage when they performed together at Riddu Riđđu.[16]

Associated campaigns[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^
    • Heitkamp, Heidi. "Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women: Resources & Information". Retrieved October 31, 2017. In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing Native women reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), compared to 5,712 total Native women cases reported in the United States. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as cases of missing Native women are often under-reported and the data has never been officially collected. Heidi Heitkamp Senator of North Dakota
    • "REDress exhibit highlights epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women". The Guardian. March 7, 2019.
    • "Rep. Haaland addresses Congress on epidemic of missing, endangered indigenous women". KRQE Media. March 14, 2019.
    • Hopkins, Ruth (September 11, 2018). "When the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis Hits Home". Teen Vogue. With issues concerning jurisdictional power and poor communication between families and local, state, tribal, and federal authorities contribute to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
  2. ^ a b c Ault, Alicia. "These Haunting Red Dresses Memorialize Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women". Smithsonian.org. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Tam, Ruth (March 23, 2019). "Can art speak the truth about violence against indigenous women?". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bolen, Anne (Spring 2019). "A Place for the Taken: The REDress Project Gives a Voice to Missing Indigenous Women". National Museum of the American Indian. 20 (1). Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Suen, Fan-Yee (October 3, 2015). "Red dresses seek to draw attention to missing, murdered aboriginal women". CTV news. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Jenkins, Mark (March 15, 2019). "In the galleries: Hanging garments symbolize violence against indigenous women". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Rieger, Sarah (September 30, 2015). "Red Dresses Draw Attention To Canada's Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women". Huffington Post (Canada). Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  8. ^ "Exhibitions". The REDress project. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Sharon Blady (May 16, 2011). "REDress Project" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Canada: Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. pp. 2000–2001.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Red Dress Jingle Special – UNM KIVA's 63rd Annual Nizhoni Days Powwow". Yahoo! News. May 1, 2018. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Mustain, Jeane (October 12, 2016). "Local REDress project honours missing, murdered Nova Scotians". The Signal. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Utsi, Johan Ante; Gaup, Berit Solveig (July 13, 2019). "– Mirakel at det er fred i verden" [– A miracle that peace exists in the world]. NRK Sápmi (in Norwegian). Retrieved October 13, 2019.

External links[edit]