Culture

Artists exploring residential schools and reconciliation

Art and creative expression can be important in healing and in taking steps towards reconciliation.

Art can also be a way to explore our history — the good and the bad.

Sonny Assu has done that, with an exhibit called “Day School” at the Equinox Gallery in Vancouver that invites us to think about residential schools and ask questions about colonialism. Assu is from the We Wai Kai Nation in B.C.

The exhibit coincided with the release of the initial Truth and Reconciliation report and wrapped up last week. It was simple and consisted of only two school desks.

One desk was used by his grandmother many decades ago, in the 1930s. On top of the desk sat a small box of soap to tell the story of her first day at school, when a classmate called her a “dirty Indian.” The second desk is from 1990 and had the word “chug” — a racist slur — on the underside.

Some people might think that because residential schools are part of history, they’re not a part of Canada’s present. Assu disagrees.

“These issues around colonization and decolonization are almost always assumed to be in the past,” Assu said in an interview. “But it’s going on right now.”

What do you think of art as a way of healing? Do you think exploring difficult histories through art is a positive thing?

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