Over the past few months, serious debates about racism in our city and across the country have been taking place in many communities. Now, the results of a poll and a major art project are adding a new dimension to the discussion.
The poll featured in the I Wonder Winnipeg section of Community News Commons main page, showed 57% of respondents have personally encountered racism in Winnipeg on a regular basis, or at least once a week. As well, 38% of those answering the question reported experiencing racism occasionally, or once a month. A mere 5% said they have never seen or experienced racism in Winnipeg.
The question ran on CNC’s website for the past month, hard on the heels of the Maclean’s magazine feature edition critical of ongoing racism in Canada, with particular attention paid to Winnipeg as “the most racist city” in the country.
This week, an exciting art installment is about to generate even more attention on the need to break down barriers in neighborhoods across Winnipeg and throughout Canada.
On Mar. 19 at 5:30 pm in Hydro Place, 360 Portage Ave., Oji-Cree artist KC Adams unveils her groundbreaking exhibit, Perceptions, in a way that is as unique and provocative as the project itself.
Beginning Thursday, giant posters featuring the faces of Aboriginal people will be plastered around Winnipeg’s downtown, as part of a large-scale anti-racism project created by Adams and the Urban Shaman Gallery.
The aim is to debunk some of the more common racist stereotypes leveled against Canada’s First Peoples.
The idea was spawned during Winnipeg’s mayoral race in the fall of 2014, when issues involving racism were being debated.
It was then Adams started a photo project called Perceptions, where she enlisted the help of friends and fellow activists, to pose for two photos: one revealed a stoic, straight faced portrait captioned with a racist epithet, while the other displayed a smiling, light-hearted expression accompanied with words describing who the person is and what they actually do.
Adams says the project counters the common misconceptions that many people have about First Nations, Metis and Inuit Peoples as victims of crime and poverty, homeless panhandlers and a burden on taxpayers. Instead, this is replaced with a more accurate depiction of normal, middle class indigenous people who own their own homes, pay their bills and have careers.
The provocative images will appear on billboards, buses and in downtown storefront windows. On evenings when the Winnipeg Jets are playing at MTS Centre, the photos will be projected onto buildings while people are streaming into downtown and when they’re leaving the area.
The project will cost around $45,000 and is supported by in-kind donations and cash contributions. An Indiegogo crowd funding campaign is also being launched to help with the initiative’s reach and to support future public art focused on indigenous artists.
Project supporters include, the Downtown BIZ, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, University of Manitoba President David Barnard, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Chief Commissioner, Justice Murray Sinclair, Polaris prize-winning musician Tanya Tagaq, journalist Wab Kinew, and many, many others.
Some other stories published about this project include: