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Arts & Récits Autochtones - Vanished


2016 - Lauréat d’art

Melissa Johns

Burlington, ON
Upper Cayuga
Âge 22

Une note d'auteur

From 1980 to the present, it’s been officially estimated that more than twelve hundred Canadian Aboriginal women have disappeared or met with violent ends. Vanished is a painting created to honour the memory of these missing and murdered women and facilitate dialogue about the national crisis surrounding them. The figure is modelled after Maisy Odjick, a teenage girl who disappeared along with Shannon Alexander in 2008. Eight years have passed, and no new information about their whereabouts has been found. The frequency of murdered indigenous women is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population -- Aboriginal women make up 4% of the nation’s women but represent 16% of all female homicides and 11% of female disappearances. More concerning is the dismissive approach employed by the authorities investigating these incidents, with 2014 marking the release of the only RCMP report on the matter. Progress is being made as the issue gains political traction, such as the current government’s promise to launch an official inquiry, but cruelty persists in the wake of inaction.

The aesthetic of Vanished blends fragmentation and sentimentality, enshrining the stories of the lost in the central figure. Her form is ephemeral and disintegrating but her face endures, mirroring the strength and beauty of culture that cannot be erased. Each crow represents not a statistic but a stolen life, leaving behind only questions and grieving families. These women, though vulnerable in life and and overlooked in death, were anything but alone. The loss is intergenerational; mothers, daughters, and sisters have been taken and immeasurable hurt continues to echo through their broken communities. Until resolution is realized in the form of justice, all that can be done is to take care of one another, keeping the stories of these women alive.

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