Lethbridge has become home to the next part of Tracey-Mae Chambers nationwide project. You can experience the #HopeandHealingCanada installation at Fort Whoop-Up in the river valley.
The Hope and Healing project was created to start conversations around decolonizing public spaces and the interconnectivity that all Indigenous communities across Canada share, by creating intricate, complex, and beautiful displays of red yarn in public spaces.
“Often public spaces serve to present a colonial viewpoint and primarily speak about the settlers who arrived and lived here, but not the Indigenous peoples that were displaced along the way,” said Chambers, creator and artist at the helm of this nation-wide project. “The decolonization of such places is a ponderous task and must be shouldered collectively,” added Chambers.
The piece is composed using red yarn as symbol of the interconnectedness of the struggles and identity of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. The red yarn used is significant, since each piece in the collection across Canada uses the same red yarn; when each piece is dismantled, the yarn will be used again in the next installation, and so on. The locations and what each installment represent along with the important conversations the piece’s start are the only things that vary.
Having had the pieces installed in many places across Canada, such as Quebec City, Chambers says that her approach to each piece is different, and that what each location means in relation to the piece. The choice to locate this portion of her piece at Fort Whoop-Up was made in part, “Due to the complexity of the site,” said Chambers, going on to add she hopes this piece and its location will go on “to provoke different and more meaningful conversations with visitors.”
Fort Whoop-Up increasingly works to tell the full story of its role in our area's history. That means the story of the buffalo robe trade and also the the consequences of the illegal whisky trade on the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), other First Nations, Métis, Canadians, Americans, and British.
Chambers hopes that the initiative sparks more and more conversations around colonization and its effects on the Indigenous peoples of Canada as well as how we as a country can collectively and effectively decolonize ourselves.
“The discussion of reconciliation and decolonization is hard to start and harder to maintain,” said Chambers. To counteract this difficulty, “Each one of the installations has a didactic that goes with it explaining what the program is or what the project means, and what it’s trying to engage viewers in.” Said Chambers.
This technique along with careful placement where the piece contextually makes sense, but where art isn’t usually displayed has proven effective in starting conversations, “So when they see [the piece] that’s immediately a sort of conversation, because they are thinking ‘why is that art there?’” Said Chambers
It is Chambers’ hope that visitors of Fort Whoop-Up will have similar experiences and discussion as seen in other cities across Canada. With increased access to the site during the projects residency thanks to the cultureLINK bus initiative, the piece is sure to start many conversations during its time in our city.
“We are very honoured to host this important project here in Sikoohkotok,” said Tyler Stewart, a curator for the Galt Museum and Archives. “It is important that we don’t see people and history as static objects frozen in time, but to constantly re-examine our world through new lenses and ways of thinking – Fort Whoop-Up and its legacy are no exception.”