Polychrome Body Armour (Bullet Proof Vest) 2006
Wood, Stone, Mixed Media
Collection: Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The Vest (actual Police body armour) has been painted using the Colours of the Medicine Wheel. Most of you will be familiar with the interpretation of the colours as representing races of peoples and global direction. Although they maintain the very same Medicine Wheel reference, I have taken the liberty to introduce an addition layer of reference.
In my treatment, white on red represents all that has been imposed and in many cases forced upon Aboriginal Peoples across Turtle Island. Imperialism gave way to colonialism and with it came the treaty making process that continues to this day. We have seen the evolution of the Indian Act and countless legislative initiatives all conceived “in our best interest”. The new millennium began with a “suite of legislation” that included the First Nations Governance Act (FNGA); the First Nations Fiscal & Statistical Management Act; and First Nations Specific Claims Resolution Act. More recently we have seen Matrimonial Real Property (MRP) and Bill C-44 (amendment to section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act that would have impact on First Nations).
Red on white represents progressive efforts to rectify and reconcile the long standing issues and concerns that Aboriginal Peoples (First Nation, Inuit and Metis) have endured for centuries. Victories in the courts in cases such as Calder, Guerin, Sparrow, Delgamuukw, Haida Nation and Taku River have clarified treaty relationships and established standards of conduct for our treaties partners – Canada, the provinces and the territories.
Gray on black represents our darkest era. Scaring of the residential schools experience will be the lasting evidence of the deep wounds suffered by our people as they were torn from the families, communities, their nations and the land. INAC and DOJ have long been regarded as the agents of our misery and obstacles to our revitalization. Our communities are plagued with housing shortages, drinking water crisis, alcoholism, and suicide. Many feel there is no way to pray to our Creator because we have lost our language. Despair and hopelessness have become permanent residence.
I have used brown on yellow to recognize and applaud those in our communities who have never given up hope that the desperate condition of Aboriginal communities can and will change. Our spiritual leaders draw us back to the teachings. They remind us of all the Creator has provided. Our prayers will be heard if we remember to use tobacco, sweet grass, sage, and cedar as was intended. The drum, the songs, the stories are all constant reminders that we have a duty to ensure that our elders are to be respected and we work to create a better world for those generations yet to come.
The Vest (bullet proof) was created as a symbol of all the history, events and circumstances that we take on when we accept the role and responsibilities of leadership. Quite appropriately – you are wearing your office. The inside of the Vest bears the same treatment as the outer surface. This is an acknowledgement that many of our leaders carry the issues and matters very close to them.
Accepting the role of leadership has its drawbacks. There are threats to our efforts to improve the lives of our people. In my case, it comes from those who purport to be traditionalist. In addition to the Vest there is an internal component – a Medicine Wheel – that serves two purposes. First, it separates the inner surfaces allowing a view of internal treatment. Second, it provides a heart for a hand made arrow, reminiscent of those traditional fashioned, to pierce. The “rustic” arrow enters the Vest, transverse from left to right. The words HATE, FRUSTRATION, PAIN, ANGER, and FEAR are written on the shaft.
Despite all that the Creator has given and promises, there are those of discontent who see no way to deal with circumstances but to lash out at the whole world. There are those who use anger and hate to create reaction and there are those who are willing to follow “leaders” who claim direct action and violence is the only answer. This is not the way the Creator wants us to exist or our leaders to lead. We achieve nothing when we hate or when we are angry.
Leaders, who pursue a more responsible path, do so at the risk of getting little support. It is difficult to defuse the multitude, who feel justified in their anger. Leaders choosing this approach are only human and there are those occasions when an arrow pierces all the protection the Creator had provided and we bleed our sorrow. This is represented by the red ribbons that stream from the red centre (heart) of the Medicine Wheel.
The Vest is an eclectic piece that sums up my experience – the artist politician or the political artist. There are very few who can claim my perspective. Upon reflection, I find both realms highly compatible. Both require vision and patience. Both can, at times, be provocative. In the end, the time and energy we set toward our works will determine whether they survive the test of time.
The Vest carries the same colour scheme as DOJINAC, with additional entries in to each of the four colour areas.
MATRIMONIAL REAL PROPERTY (MRP)
MARSHALL 1 & 2
BILL C-7 FIRST NATIONS GOVERNANCE ACT
NON ASSERTION/ FALL BACK RELEASE TECHNIQUE
1995 INHERENT RIGHTS POLICY
NON – NON DEROGATION AMENDMENT
D.O.J. / I.N.A.C.
BILL C-19 FIRST NATIONS FISCAL INSTITUTIONS ACT
COURTS, COURTS, COURTS