Witness Blanket and CUVic 2014

The Witness Blanket, an art installation created by Kwagiulth artist and Master Carver Carey Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme) and inspired by the traditional woven blanket as a symbol of protection and comfort, evokes the atrocities of Indian Residential Schools and a national journey toward reconciliation.

On May 20, the blanket will be presented for the first time during opening ceremonies for CUVic 2014: Beyond Engagement, a global three-day conference hosted by UVic to highlight the innovative experiences of universities and communities working together.

Once complete, the blanket will be composed of 13 cedar panels containing over 600 objects and artifacts—including rock, wood, tiles, bricks, chunks from building foundations, an old drum, pages from books, panes of glass, patchwork prayer kneelers, two children’s hockey skates and two hanks of hair from Newman’s sisters in honour of their father’s experience—collected on gathering trips over the past year to residential school sites, churches, courthouses, government buildings, and traditional and cultural structures across our country. The blanket will be presented next week with seven panels and, once complete, will measure in total two metres high and 12 metres wide.

Photo gallery: http://ring.uvic.ca/media/photo-essays/witness-blanket-cuvic-2014

“There is something special woven into this process that separates it from my other works,” Newman says. “Each item, each story and each contributor adds another layer to the depth, meaning and raw beauty of the Witness Blanket. It is that collective spirit that has provided strength and guided this journey. This project has brought me closer to my family and given me a clearer understanding of my father. It has changed my soul. The fact that it is being shown for the first time, at UVic, in my hometown, at a conference about community engagement—perfect.” More on Newman

“UVic has a special connection with the Witness Blanket on several levels,” says Dr. Leslie Brown, lead scholar for CUVic 2014 and a long-time community-based researcher. “Its creator is a former UVic music student. The university’s contribution is a cedar plank from First Peoples House at UVic and a replica of the cover page from a 1987 course manual which was among UVic’s early efforts to positively shift the relationship between researchers and Indigenous communities. When Carey and I spoke about his new project a year ago, CUVic seemed a natural fit as a first space for the Witness Blanket.” More on UVic’s contribution

Aboriginal arbitrator, political icon and scholar Bob Rae will open CUVic 2014 (previously announced) with a keynote presentation May 20 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to the opening address, and to the three days of more than 100 thought-provoking workshops, panels and presentations, a gala evening celebration at the RBC Museum, as well as pre- and post-conference field trips. Full program details: www.uvic.ca/cuvic2014.

The Witness Blanket was part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Commemoration Initiative.

It will be displayed in the University Centre until June 8, then later this year, Newman’s project coordinator Rosy Hartman will take the blanket on a cross-country tour.

What: CUVic 2014 opening ceremony, with keynote speaker Bob Rae (Public viewing of the Witness Blanket will take place in the lobby before and after the ceremony)
When: May 20 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Farquhar Auditorium, University Centre
Tickets to the opening ceremony are free of charge. It is recommended that tickets be booked in advance, as seating is reserved. Contact UVic Ticket Centre at http://auditorium.uvic.ca/tickets/ or 250-721-8480.

High-resolution photos are available to media, as well as B roll from the gathering trip, courtesy of Media One. Scroll down for "Photos Page" to access the images.

To download the five-minute trailer of the Witness Blanket gathering trip, right-click on link and "save target as" or "save link as" (video).


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Media contacts

>Dr. Leslie Brown (Special Advisor to the Provost on Community Engagement / Director, UVic’s Institute for Studies and Innovation in Community-University Engagement) at lbrown@uvic.ca

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6248 or tksharpe@uvic.ca

In this story

Keywords: Indigenous

People: Carey Newman, Leslie Brown

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