Historic Art Installation Stands Witness at Hamilton Public Library

HAMILTON — Pieces of the Witness Blanket, a wood-based First Nations art installation, collectively recounts for future generations the true story of loss, strength, reconciliation and experienced by students of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. The Witness Blanket will be on display at Hamilton’s Central Library from July 13 to August 29, 2015.

“I created this monument to reflect the strength of my people and it is my hope that everyone who stands in witness of this piece will be affected in some way,” said First Nations artist and Master Carver Carey Newman. “If the Witness Blanket fosters awareness in one person who is just learning about this difficult part of Canadian history, or touches a Residential School survivor or one of their family members, it has made a difference.”

The Witness Blanket consists of 13 panels and is over eight feet tall and 40 feet long. Cedar frames hold over 800 collected objects and a multi-media presentation within the installation connects viewers to residential school experiences in a personal way.

“The Hamilton Public Library and the many partners who have come together to host the Witness Blanket exhibit are honoured to be able to share this incredible art installation,” says Hamilton Public Library’s Chief Librarian Paul Takala. All are encouraged to stop by Central Library to experience the powerful messages of hope and reconciliation portrayed by the Witness Blanket.

“The fact the blanket is now travelling to communities across the country is exactly what I was hoping for,” said Newman. “Each person who stands witness and takes a little piece of this into their heart, adds to the meaning and legacy of this work. As we begin the hard work of reconciliation, we need to honour the survivors and remember the children who were lost, while at the same time forging hope for future generations”

The son of a residential-school survivor, Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme) aims to showcase the Witness Blanket across Canada on a seven-year national tour and to produce a documentary on the making of the Witness Blanket. In 2013 and 2014, Newman and project coordinators traveled across the country to meet with and gather artifacts from residential school survivors, families, churches and others with memories or relationships with residential schools.

The Witness Blanket exhibit is presented in partnership by: City of Hamilton, Hamilton Community Foundation, Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, McMaster University, McMaster University Indigenous Studies and Mohawk College.

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