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This article was published 21/2/2015 (2106 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Those words, and their much more powerful antidotes, will be blown up and plastered around Winnipeg's downtown next month, especially during Winnipeg Jets games, as part of a large-scale anti-racism art project that comes on the heels of a Maclean's magazine article dubbing Winnipeg Canada's most racist city.
The project is the brainchild of artist KC Adams and the Urban Shaman gallery, who are hoping to debunk some of the most persistent racist stereotypes thrown at indigenous people.
Last fall, in the midst of a civic election campaign marked by a debate about racism and violence against indigenous women, Adams began a photo project called Perception that took instant flight on social media. She corralled friends and fellow activists -- including Polaris prize-winning musician Tanya Tagaq, former broadcaster Wab Kinew and university professor Niiggan Sinclair -- to pose for two photos. One was captioned with a common racist epithet and one was captioned with a short, accurate, often funny and even mundane personal biography.
Adams, who has now photographed two dozen local subjects, said the project was meant to counter common media portrayals of aboriginal people -- as a burden on taxpayers, as victims of crime and poverty, as homeless panhandlers -- and show instead the normal, middle-class lives many Métis, First Nations and Inuit people lead.
"You don't often see portrayals of indigenous people who pay their bills, own a home, have a mortgage, go to work," said Adams, whose work can be seen in the National Gallery of Canada. "Don't judge a book by its cover, because there are so many layers to all of us."
Now, with the help of local businesses, the city and non-profit agencies, Adams' photos will blitz the downtown. Project organizers hope to feature them on billboards, on Winnipeg Transit buses, and in as many as 15 storefront windows downtown, including locations in Portage Place mall.
And, on nights the Winnipeg Jets are playing at the MTS Centre, the photos will be projected onto the sides of three or four buildings as hockey fans drive into and out of the downtown.
Urban Shaman staffers are still nailing down the details, but hope to launch the project with a splashy event March 19. The photos will cover the downtown for at least three weeks. The hope is their reach could expand into the suburbs, to shopping centres and the University of Manitoba.
The project, ballparked to cost $45,000, is being funded largely by in-kind contributions as well as some cash donations.
Organizers also hope to launch an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, to launch mid-March, that will help boost the project's reach but also create a nest egg for future public art featuring indigenous artists.
On board is the Downtown BIZ, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, along with heavy hitters such as University of Manitoba president David Barnard and Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Indian residential school Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Marcel Balfour, president of Urban Shaman's board of directors, said the idea is to use art to preach beyond the choir, to reach Winnipeggers who might not be part of the city's new debate about its racial divide.
"It's a really good opportunity to use public art to have some kind of public dialogue," he said. "It's an opportune time."
Adams said the project began during a key weekend last August, when city-council candidates were already debating Winnipeg's racial divide, and when the bodies of teenager Tina Fontaine and homeless hero Faron Hall were both pulled from the Red River. Fontaine's homicide is still unsolved, and was followed three months later by the assault on 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, who was left for dead near the Assiniboine River. Those crimes became emblematic of systemic racism faced by indigenous people, especially women.
Adams hopes the public art project can be exported to other cities, starting first with Ottawa.
"I'd love to see this plastered all over Parliament Hill," said Adams.