Written by Thea Jones, ERI Program Manager (May 7, 2020)
Image: Rebecca Belmore, The Named and the Unnamed, 2002, video installation, Vancouver BC.
May 5th was Red Dress Day. On this day Canadians were encouraged to wear red as a way to draw attention to missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
The REDress Project was created by Metis artist Jamie Black, as a call to Canadians to remember. Black is a part of a history of female Canadian artists working to ensure we do not forget the missing and murdered indigenous women. Rebecca Belmore is one such artist. Belmore is internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist and a member of the Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe).
On June 23, 2002 on the corner of Gore St and Cordova St in Vancouver BC, Belmore wore a red dress and conducted a performance she calls Vigil. Throughout this performance Belmore marks her body with the names of indigenous women who went missing from that intersection (Gore and Cordova) in Vancouver and then screams those names aloud - these screams are spaced with silence for the names of women we not know. Belmore hammers nails into her red dress, attaching herself to the corner, and attempts to rip her dress away, a seemingly impossible tasks that she works endlessly at. She lights candles. All of this work, this labour, was Belmore's way to call attention to the women we must not forget.
Image: Jamie Black with her REDress project (credit: Sean Leslie, Global News)
Jamie Black, pictured above with her REDress Project, uses an empty red dress to depict the missing woman from the dress. Both Black and Belmore use the visual and performative power of art to help us grasp the magnitude of the loss and grapple with the injustice.
The ERI team would like to thank these women for ensuring we remember their pain, and honour their present day resilience.