Friday, January 20, 2023

Storied Land: (Re)Mapping Winnipeg

Over the course of the next week or two, I would like to post all of the prints I made for this artist's book. This series of prints is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until May 21, 2023.

I'll start with the cover page today as an introduction.

Storied Land: (Re)Mapping Winnipeg is an artist's book exploring segments of the colonial and racial history of settlement in Manitoba and Winnipeg through the use of layered etchings that recall the diverging narratives of experiences. These histories have been sourced from local newspaper archives and from various accounts of Indigenous people, Métis people, and Mennonite settlers.

This project gave me the opportunity to learn more about the colonial history of Winnipeg. It also allowed me to further explore the colonial history of my own roots and challenge the settler narratives I grew up with. My maternal great great great grandparents were among the early Mennonite settlers that migrated to Manitoba between 1874-1877. They settled in the East and West Reserves on land granted to them by the Canadian government, but which had already been at least partially requested by local Métis residents.

As part of my research, I accessed the archives of the Winnipeg Free Press both online and at the Legislative Library. I also visited the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives. I read articles and books by local historians and Indigenous authors that offer new and critical perspectives on many of the city's developments. I chose to work with a cross-section of themes from the past 150 years where colonization histories of the province or the city intersect in some form with Mennonite history, either in the context of Indigenous or Métis dispossession or the support of reconciliation efforts.

What I noticed (unsurprisingly) in my research, was the absence of Indigenous or Métis perspectives until more recent years, and the use of racist and derogatory language that reflected the settler sentiments and supported settler interests, which is why it was important for me to look for information sources beyond the Winnipeg Free Press. As Riva Symko, the curator of this exhibition, sums it up in the exhibition catalogue: “... news coverage influences who and what is important enough to be part of local, national, and international dialogues and, by extension, histories.”

For digital access to the book please click here. 

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