Passion infuses Shades of Our Sisters collaborative multimedia installations

Sonya Cywink

ESPANOLA—‘Shades of Our Sisters,’ a group of unique collaborative multimedia installations, will be exhibited at the Espanola Public High School on February 24 to 25.

The installation includes two short documentary films and a number of art installations that honour the lives of Whitefish River First Nations’ Sonya Cywink and Anderville’s Patricia Carpenter, two murdered indigenous women whose lives, though cut short in violence, still send ripples to inform and personalize the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls-Transgendered and Two Spirited.

Project Manager (and digital director) Josephine Tse chatted with The Expositor about the upcoming exhibition and how the project has impacted the entire team.

“When we first started this project, there really wasn’t any passion, as such,” she explained. The team were all students looking for a winning concept for a school project. “It started in 2015, we were looking for a documentary subject that was timely.” None of the project team are indigenous themselves, she explained.

But as the project moved forward and the team interacted with the family members of Ms. Cywink, the subject matter began to take firm hold and passion grew.

As is fitting for an Anishinabe subject matter, that passion took the form of a familial connection. “As we got into the project, we really connected with the Cywink family. A we got to know Meg and Alex (Cywink), Sonya’s family members, we became a part of their family and they of ours,” she said. “It was what really drove us to complete this project.”

Asked what the team wanted most highlighted in this report, Ms. Tse said that she and the team members wanted it stressed that ‘Shades of Our Sisters’ is a “family first collaborative project. Everything has been done in direct collaboration with the families,” she said.

The exhibit will include the two documentaries on Ms. Cywink and Ms. Carpenter, telling their stories and putting faces to the impersonal numbers behind the more than 1,200 missing and murdered. There are also two art installations pieces (“like what you would see in a museum,” supplied Ms. Tse) and a new installation that has grown organically out of the project—‘Feathers for Women.’

“We contacted schools and communities across the country to fill out a questionnaire on their feelings about violence, and to contribute feathers for a mobile we are creating,” she said. “We originally hoped to collect 1,200 feathers, but we have already reached that goal.”

The embarrassment of riches encompassed in that success presents a wonderful challenge. “We have to figure out how we will construct the mobile and transport it to the installation sites,” said Ms. Tse. “It’s pretty big right now.”

Shades of Our Sisters will be exhibited in this coming Friday, running February 17 to 18, in Toronto at the Ryerson Student Centre, then will travel to the home communities of the two women profiled in the exhibit, Ms. Carpenter’s home community of Andersonville for two days before arriving at the Espanola High School on Friday, February 24 and to 25 from 6:30 to 8 pm.

The official notice of the exhibit reads “attendees will be transported into the grief, laughter and love of two families sharing who their loved ones are and what the loss of their life means, challenging Canadians to realize the injustice of this national tragedy.”