Red Dress exhibit at MoD honours missing and murdered indigenous women

May 11, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Museum of Dufferin (MoD) is paying homage to missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people with a red dress display.

“This is the first time that we’ve done a Red Dress Day display and we hope to continue to do this into the future, and that this is something that other sites, or community organizations might join in and do as well,” said Sarah Robinson, interim museum services manager.

The MoD’s red dress display consists of around 30 dresses that were donated to the museum by members of the community during a callout back in March. The display is located on the front lawn of the museum and includes informational signage for those who drive a loop of the museum’s driveway.

“It’s one thing that we can do to participate,” said Robinson. “At museums, it’s our job to decolonize and create spaces where the stories and words of Indigenous people can be heard. Especially, I think, because the museum historically was found using the collections of European settlers, and so it’s important to create the space for Indigenous artists and for the history of Indigenous people.”

Red Dress Day was inspired in 2010 by Jamie Black, a Métis artist based in Winnipeg, who hung hundreds of empty red dresses in public places to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and raise awareness.

Red Dress Day is held annually on May 5, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and Two-spirited people.

According to Statistics Canada, the rate of homicide of Indigenous women in 2014 was almost six times higher than non-Indigenous women.

As part of their recognition of Red Dress Day, the Museum of Dufferin had a special ribbon skirt created by Sharon Rigby, a local Indigenous artist. The ribbon skirt is on display inside the museum.

“I am of Haudensaunee/Algonquin heritage and have spent the last three years exploring and learning many different elements of my culture. When I am creating, I am in a safe space. The noise of the world fades and the hum of good energy permeates my very being and the air around me,” said Rigby. “Making this skirt was different. The hand appliques show in degrees, my grief and sadness concerning MMIWG. The first two hands are stitched on with a straight stitch and red thread. The second hand I painted a red border around the hand as I started to cry. The third hand I stitched in zigzag messily through my tears.”

Speaking with the Free Press, Robinson talked about the display’s community impact.

“It’s a chance for people to reflect, remember, and take action to do their own research on what Red Dress Day is and what it represents. It’s for everyone to become aware of the thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirted people who have been subjected to disproportionate violence in Canada.”

The Red Dress Day display at the Museum of Dufferin will remain up until May 12.

Robinson noted that the local museum has worked with community elder Karen Vandenberg on how the dresses will be respectfully stored after the display is taken down.

Sharon Rigby’s ribbon skirt commemorating Red Dress Day will remain on display in the museum throughout May.

For those interested in seeing the piece in-person, the operating hours of the Museum of Dufferin are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.