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Qulliit launches first-ever RED exhibit for Red Dress Day

The exhibit composed of Nunavummiut artwork represents the spirit of Red Dress Day and will begin travelling the Territory in September

Red Dress Day, or the day on May 5th every year we as Canadians set aside to remember the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), always holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Indigenous communities.

However, this year, Nunavut’s Qulliit Council is doing something different. The first incarnation of a new, creative tribute to stolen sisters comes in the form of a special RED (Remember-Educate-Dedicate) collection that will, beginning September 2, 2024, be travelling the Territory all year long. 

"The goal", says the website dedicated to this project, "is to create a permanent and a growing collection of works in Nunavut, to be exhibited in both digital and physical spaces. In doing so, the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council aims to create safe spaces for awareness, dialogue, and healing, while empowering Nunavut’s women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people to speak out against gender-based violence."

The center piece of the physical exhibition as it was launched on May 5, 2024 in the Aqsarniit Hotel featured a piece by Iqaluit artist Yurak specifically created for RED. "When I first got the invitation to make artwork," Yurak said to Nunavut News, "It was so overwhelming. It's just such a hard thing...," here the artist's voice breaks as she is overcome by the emotion of the day, "I wanted to show something hopeful. Not to take away from the seriousness of the subject, but to give that hug to people who need it. 

"Even though terrible things have happened to [these women and girls]," she struggles to communicate through the emotion in her voice, "they're at peace now. I wanted to depict them like they're at peace and sleeping." 

The 21 year old full-time artist also adds that the face of the woman in her untitled piece reflects "a lot of the faces I feel like I've seen." The colours in the earth and sky of her 3D painting were intentionally used to create a warm, natural feeling. 

“It is vital that we commemorate our stolen sisters in a way that reflects the pain and healing of Nunavummiut," said Minister for the Status of Women Margaret Nakashuk, who opened the exhibit. “We wanted to do something concrete that spoke to the journey, the struggle and the immense loss that we feel, but also provides hope and empowerment for all."

Andrea Anderson contributed her own 3D painting to the collection. Like Yurak, she spent some time deliberating on the idea and execution, finally settling on using melted candlewax to create the visceral effect of overflowing blood from a qulliq. "I was very please with how it turned out," commented Anderson, who exemplified the best of the versatility and endurance of Inuit by attending in matching traditional dress with her two-year-old foster son.

“As the RED exhibit is now online, and will travel throughout the territory over the foreseeable future, my hope is this allows us to foster the intention of Red Dress Day every day," said Qulliit President Amber Aglukark. "I hope that today, all across the territory, we take a moment to celebrate their memories, as well as create a safe space for women, girls, gende-diverse and 2sLGBTQQIA+ people to thrive in our communities."

Kira Wronska Dorward

About the Author: Kira Wronska Dorward

I attended Trinity College as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, graduating in 2012 as a Specialist in History. In 2014 I successfully attained a Master of Arts in Modern History from UofT..
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