Canadian Museum for Human Rights – Number One Fans!
“We can only be what we give ourselves the power to be” – Native American Proverb
Fred & Glawen Gerrits are hands down CMHR’s number one fans! Together they have participated in numerous perimeter tours of the Museum’s construction site, dating back to when the tours first began in 2009. More impressive is that Fred is known to pay a daily visit to the construction site, come sun, rain or snow since the shovel first hit the ground. In fact, they shared with me that it was seeing the shovel dig into the ground, “that made the whole project seem suddenly very real and worthy to follow.”
This energetic couple have travelled to many places around the world, but rave about the city of Winnipeg as having special significance to them, second only to their five children who each refer to the CMHR building and project as their father’s ‘baby’. This couple make no secret of the high hopes they hold for this new museum and the meaning it has for them.
“I am from Wales and Fred is from Holland.” Glawen explained to me. “We both lived through WWII and were witness to many terrible things. It was in our younger days, where we unfortunately witnessed the destruction of what we now call human rights, basic human rights.”
Fred continued, “Yes, we have lived through this, in what we see as three stages. In the first and second stage we witnessed the erosion and destruction of individual human rights dating back to the 20s and 30s. And more recently is what we call the third stage, as we see palpable efforts in our world to restore the understanding of what fundamental human rights is all about and what it means to different people in different cultures.
Fred is a true champion in spirit as he marvels at the architectural vision, integrity and relevance of the building itself. He is well versed on the history of the Forks, known for its long tradition as a meeting place for trade and gathering of people from far and wide along the riverbanks of Assiniboine and Red River. Fred also shares his deep pride and knowledge of the history of Winnipeg; that it will become internationally known as the home to this remarkable modern landmark.
He gushed about the museum building, “What is so exciting for me is that this museum and city will become greatly known around the world and revered like the Eiffel Tower is to France or the Opera House is to Sydney. It holds that kind of status, and on top of that what it stands for, human rights! For me, this building represents so much. I read way back how Antoine Predock was inspired by Winnipeg, and it shows in his spirited design. It is like a cathedral, in all its glory. But better than that, it is like a futuristic tepee. That is what I see. I lay awake at night thinking about it, and it speaks to me in numbers. Take the four roots for example. The number four is a very good number and is symbolic of many things, like the four elements, water, earth, sky and fire, the four cardinal directions, and the four sacred plants, tobacco, cedar, sweet grass and sage. This is aligned with spirit of land this museum resides on, and the aboriginal people who have always lived here. I love the glass cloud. I look at it and see its design in five parts that are intended to resemble the protective wings of a dove. For me, the five parts represent the protection of peace, justice, security, equality and opportunity, and the number five symbolize the five continents in the world. It’s extraordinary!”
Now, how’s that for passion! We at the CMHR think it is incredible that Fred and Glawen have connected to such a degree that it has led them to create such deep meaning out of their visitor experience thus far.
Fred Gerrit’s wrote these words to be shared, in preparation for our interview; “Architect and master builder, Antoine Predock’s spiritual and Aboriginal inspired design and architecture of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, built at the Forks in the heart of Winnipeg, is the most exotic, ambitious, and wildly futuristic monument ever constructed in this country we call Canada. A triumphant architecture unrivaled; a gift to humanity, where the main challenge is to educate, embrace, debate and reject hate! F.Gerrits, Winnipeg, Manitoba, The Human Rights City.”
What an honour to have had the chance to interview this couple! They touched my heart. Fred’s and Glawen’s words and passion are a powerful reminder of why this museum exists. It exemplifies how important this extraordinary museum is to the people who are witnessing the birth of what will be Canada’s next monumental landmark and its raison d’être to support human rights. We look forward to so many people, young and old, that will over time make their way to visit this impressive landmark of a building, located in heart of the city, collecting stories of the heart that will preserve and promote a better way to being human.