Bison statue at The Forks promotes education, unity

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A statue created to symbolize knowledge, unity and understanding was unveiled at The Forks Thursday at a time when controversial sculptures and monuments are being pulled down, set on fire and beheaded.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/06/2020 (893 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A statue created to symbolize knowledge, unity and understanding was unveiled at The Forks Thursday at a time when controversial sculptures and monuments are being pulled down, set on fire and beheaded.

The statue, called Education is the New Bison, is a 12-foot bison made up of 200 steel replicas of books and other articles. Each book is written by an Indigenous or allied author, most of whom are local.

Quotes from Louis Riel, Sen. Murray Sinclair and Haida artist Robert Davidson are etched on the bison, along with drawings of fruit to symbolize dreams and wishes. The bison is on a 2.5-kilometre path that runs throughout The Forks. The trail is filled with art installations to tell people’s histories.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local artist Val Vint with her new piece, Education is the New Bison, a 12-foot bison made up of 200 steel replicas of books and other articles. Each book is written by an Indigenous or allied author, most of whom are local.

“There’ll be the European story, there’ll be the Indigenous story, the Métis stories, all kinds of stories as people do this loop,” said The Forks CEO Paul Jordan.

The bison’s artist, Val Vint, said strangers talk to each other when they see the bison.

“They’re having good, intelligent conversations, and that’s what (the bison’s) job is,” Vint said.

A crane erected the installation at Niizhoziibean, formerly South Point, at The Forks a couple of weeks ago. In the first days, people clambered to get closer to the bison to read its titles. Organizers put stepping stones around it to encourage viewers to take a better look.

Vint said she struggled to form an idea, so she put tobacco down and prayed to her ancestors for guidance. Upon waking the next morning, a fully formed vision of the bison was in her head, she said.

The piece was two years in the making. However, Vint had read many of the bison’s titles before she began the project, she said.

“These (stories) are part of our life, part of our existence,” Vint said. “Hearing other people’s voices is so critical… We don’t have to all think the same, and thank goodness that we don’t, because how boring would life be?”

Vint comes from a mixed family: Cree, Ojibwa, Métis, African-American and Caucasian.

“It’s about getting along together. Like, who cares where you’re from?” Vint said. “If you’re a nice person, you’re a nice person. If you’re not, go away.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Artist Val Vint gets a hug from her grandson Isaac at the unveiling of her work Education is the New Bison.

Katherine Black, who went to the bison’s unveiling, said the statue and its meaning are refreshing, especially with various controversial statues in the news. The bison represents an idea, Black, 59, said.

“It isn’t a human being, it’s an idea. Maybe we worship heroes too much,” she said. “Maybe ideas can be more important.”

The bison is part of the Winnipeg Foundation’s strategy to support green space projects downtown. The foundation asked Vint and two other artists to create pieces that would evoke compassion and unity. The other artists’ installations will be unveiled at The Forks next year. The foundation is investing $500,000 in the project.

“It’s a legacy project,” said foundation CEO Rick Frost. “The city’s going to enjoy this project for years and years.”

Artist KC Adams’s art piece, Friendship, will be unveiled close to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Artist Jaimie Isaac’s installation will be close to Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

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Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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