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National book launch: Artist shares epic journey to “pick up the pieces” for the Witness Blanket

A man wearing traditional Indigenous regalia and headdress stands in front of an art installation made of wooden panels with embedded objects.

Photo: CMHR, Doug Little

News release details

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) will host the national launch of a book that explores the epic quest to gather items from over 130 sites of Indian residential schools for the Witness Blanket, a monumental art installation by master carver Carey Newman (Ha-Yalth-Kin-Geme).

In conversation with CBC broadcast journalist Shelagh Rogers, Newman and co-author Kirstie Hudson will share the remarkable and emotional process of Picking up the Pieces. Rogers, who is Chancellor of the University of Victoria, was also an Honorary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Newman, a renowned Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish artist, began the project to honour his father — a residential school survivor – and bear witness to the stories of the children. He and his team travelled over 200,000 kilometres across Canada, met over 10,000 people and collected over 800 pieces of history – from bricks and doors to shoes and dolls, skates and badges, straps and braids. They have been embedded in the Witness Blanket, an artistic installation assembled from pieces of cedar and inspired by woven and patchwork blankets.

WHAT: Book launch of Picking up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket

WHEN: Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 7 p.m.

WHERE: CMHR, Canadian Journeys gallery

A free ticket is required for the general public, available online at humanrights.ca. The evening will include a book signing, with copies available for sale at the event. The book, published by Orca Book Publishers, is also available in the Museum’s Boutique.

A work of national significance, the Witness Blanket provides a tangible framework for conversations about the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Newman and the CMHR this year forged a historically unique agreement for its lodging, protection and use. It is now being restored at the CMHR after touring extensively (including exhibition at the CMHR in 2015–16), while a reproduction continues to tour the country.

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