About the artist
Artist Carey Newman (Ha-Yalth-Kin-Geme) of Vancouver Island was first inspired to create The Witness Blanket by his father Victor Newman’s experiences at residential school. Carey and his team travelled for over a year on a journey of over 200,000 kilometres, visited 77 communities and gathered 887 pieces of history to incorporate into this powerful artwork.
He describes these as “pieces of history: each fragment, a silent witness to some part of this story. Individually, they are paragraphs of a disappearing narrative. Together they are strong, collectively able to recount for future generations the true story of loss, strength, reconciliation and pride.”
Carey draws from his Kwagiulth, Salish and British ancestry for inspiration. Under the influence and with the support of his father and mother, Carey developed his artistic ability and cultural knowledge from an early age. His father Victor, his great, great grandfather Charlie James, and his great aunt Ellen Neel, all renowned wood carvers, each contribute to the artistry in his blood.
Carey opened the Blue Raven Gallery on Vancouver Island in 1996. With the help of family, the gallery continues to showcase not only his work, but also that of his father Victor and his mother Edith. After completing more than 20 sell-out editions he moved on to numerous private commissions from around the world.
Carey’s piece, “Dancing Wind,” was featured during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, consisting of four large panels of stainless steel, cedar and glass. He has done work for corporations, government agencies and museums around the world and is continually thankful for the opportunity to try new ideas.
Carey’s involvement with the cultural community extends beyond his artwork. He is continually learning about his history and traditions, and has taken a leadership role in mentoring younger artists. He has completed his second totem with the “EAGLE Project,” a life-skills and employment program that incorporates carving with Aboriginal youth as a cultural component.
Artist’s statement about The Witness Blanket
I made this blanket for the Survivors, and for the children who never came home; for the dispossessed, the displaced and the forgotten. I made this blanket for the parents who hold their stories inside, afraid of what confronting them might cause in their hearts, afraid of how the truth will affect their children….
It is for those who are angry, those in pain and for those who are working to find their way through… For those who are bitter, and those who remember and those who have spent a lifetime trying to forget… To forget the braids that were shorn, the hair that was shaved, the dignity that was stolen, and the beatings, abuse and violation.
I made this blanket so that I will never forget, so that WE WILL NEVER FORGET. It is for the families, who have lost their aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers and children. For the ones who left us too soon… We are always losing someone too soon.
I made this for the communities that were broken; their future scooped up and sent away, never to be the same. For the victims of violence, and the perpetrators of that same violence, some of who were never taught a better way. We cannot excuse violence, but if we can understand the root of the matter, we can begin to find solutions. For those like me, who didn’t realise how deeply we were affected until we tried to learn our traditional languages or sing our traditional songs. Who didn’t know what we didn’t know. For those who found when they had children of their own, they had to learn how to show them love.
I love my daughter, my only child, but I was afraid to have a son, for fear that I wouldn’t know how to relate to him. That is the way it was for many years between me and my father. It is for those of us who spent parts of our lives ashamed of our heritage. For those who have yet to learn to respect themselves for whom they are and where they are from.
I made this for our cultures, our languages, and our traditions that were legislated away… For the governments and churches who tried to take them… It is for the resilience that held fast to those traditions; shepherding them through generations, so that they are now able to flourish again. I made this for anyone who doesn’t know what a residential school is, or the truth of what happened there, or the policies and laws that created them. I made this for those who wonder “when are they going to get over it?” so that we can have that discussion, in earnest, and begin to change those perceptions.
I made this blanket for the people who want to learn, and those who feel guilt. For those who walk beside us and those who are now ready to walk beside us. I made this for the conversations still to come, for the lessons we have yet to learn, and the future we are building together.
I made this blanket for hope. I made it for Truth. I made it to catch our tears. I made it for Reconciliation.
I made it for me and I made it for each of you. In the traditions of my Salish ancestors, it is meant to uplift our spirits, protect us when we are vulnerable, and to honour the good work that is being done. It is for our children, and our children’s children and all the generations to come. It is for my daughter.
When I think back, and remember… at the beginning, as I sat and thought about what I could do… through all of my ideas and dreams, through the collection of the pieces, and the success and failure of the creative process… my truth, is that in my heart, most of all... I made this blanket for my father.
Thank you, Merci, Gilakasla – Carey Newman