Witness Blanket exhibition on at Royal Roads Library

Author: 
Megan Catalano

A national monument that stands to recognize the atrocities of the residential school era will be on display at Royal Roads University this August.

The Witness Blanket is a large-scale art installation made from hundreds of artifacts reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures across Canada. Letters, photographs, clothing and building hardware are among more than 800 items incorporated into the 13-panel wood installation which stands two metres high and 12 metres wide.

Kwagiulth and Salish artist and master carver Carey Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme) says together the pieces recount the true story of loss, strength, reconciliation and pride.

“I created this monument to reflect the strength of my people and it is my hope that everyone who stands in witness of this piece will be affected in some way,” says Newman. “If the Witness Blanket fosters awareness in one person who is just learning about this difficult part of Canadian history, or touches a residential school survivor or one of their family members, it has made a difference.”

President and Vice-Chancellor Allan Cahoon says he is honoured that Royal Roads is hosting the Witness Blanket as part of its multi-year national tour which kicked off in 2014.

“Royal Roads is committed to reconciliation and Indigenization,” says Cahoon “The Witness Blanket exhibition provides an opportunity for our community to learn more about residential schools and the generations of people affected by them.”

School of Leadership Studies Director Catherine Etmanski says the school was inspired to bring the exhibition to campus because truth and reconciliation is fundamental to leadership in Canada.

“It’s an opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of what truth and reconciliation mean for us in the school and across the university,” says Etmanski. “As part of our upcoming leadership conference, we want to raise those issues to the surface looking at diversity, creativity and what’s possible from here as we move forward. This art installation provides an important entry point for discussing Indigenization as a leadership topic both in Canada and around the world.”

The Witness Blanket exhibition runs Aug. 1 to Sept. 5 in the Royal Roads Library interpretive space.

Newman is a keynote speaker at the upcoming School of Leadership Studies conference Oct. 5 to 7. Visit the Leadership Conference 2017 website for more information or to register.