Favourite public art piece

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Favourite public art piece

1. Anti-RCMP graffiti
2. Mural at WanaBees Diner
3. Kenneth Lavallee’s Star Blanket Project

In late February, Winnipeggers awoke to what an RCMP spokesperson called “upsetting” and a National Police Federation representative deemed “despicable, disgusting, disrespectful and criminal.” 

Others, however, saw the spray-painted words that appeared on three local buildings as heroic, necessary and long overdue. Either way, the graffitied slogans on the RCMP headquarters, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and Liberal MP Dan Vandal’s office helped spark conversations about ongoing racism in the city and across Canada. 

“Fuck RCMP” was scrawled across a monument outside the force’s local headquarters, and a nearby message read “Shut down KKKanada.” While no one took credit for the red-painted artwork, many linked it to ongoing abolitionist efforts and solidarity protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders. 

Hours after the graffiti appeared, Winnipeggers stood at Portage and Main in a show of support for the pipeline opponents. This was the second rally to take place at the famous intersection in the span of a few weeks, but it was far from the last anti-racism and anti-police protest Winnipeg saw this year. 

In February, Bridgette Hoshont’omba of the Choctaw Nation told the Winnipeg Free Press the graffiti was likely done by people who feel ignored. 

“Indigenous people are so often mistreated instead of being heard, so when no one is willing to listen, then people look for other ways to get the point across,” she said. “It’s a way to take up space in the public eye. I think that’s the point, because now people like Dan Vandal will have to pay attention.”

With a new year on the horizon, Manitobans might want to take the words scrawled on the side of the CMHR to heart: “Is this the future you want?” If this year’s protests, social-media campaigns and favourite public art displays are any indication, folks won’t settle for inaction. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 3, 2020)

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