LETHBRIDGE-Following September’s Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge, three local organizations are aiming to keep the discussion going through creative expression.
The #YQL Expressions of Reconciliation art and media contest offers local artists of all ages a chance to win one of three cash prizes. The contest is being sponsored by United Way, the Lethbridge Indigenous Sharing Network, and Reconciliation Lethbridge.
“Conversations about reconciliation need to be happening year-round,” said United Way’s Operations Director Janelle Marietta-Vasquez. “We need to be talking about, and doing things that foster kindness and understanding about the harms that were caused to Indigenous people through the impacts of residential schools.”
The contest invites Lethbridge residents of all ages to submit a work which responds to the question, “what do you believe reconciliation should look, sound or feel like within our community.” Submissions can include paintings, poetry, essays, sculptures, photography and various other mediums listed on the contest website.
Amanda Scout, Co-Chairperson of the city’s Reconciliation Committee says that reconciliation requires a focus on good things happening in the community while also acknowledging the past.
“Art creates opportunities for conversation and dialogue that we can use to build a stronger society,” she said. “So an art contest is a good way to show different ways of expressing reconciliation. It encourages us to look inside ourselves, and find ways to educate ourselves, our loved ones and our community.”
Marietta-Vasquez said that ultimately, the goal of the contest is to keep people thinking about reconciliation and to show that everyone can play an important role.
“We can’t and shouldn’t let Indigenous people do the all the work towards reconciliation. We as non-Indigenous people need to also do the work to make sure Indigenous voices are heard, and that traditions are respected and celebrated.”
Scout explained that the solutions for reconciliation lie within the entire community.
“Many Canadians acknowledge they were never taught these truths about Canadian history. The works of the Truth and Reconciliations Commission, and the UN Declaration of Indigenous People have shed light on many problems in our society,” said Scout. “Reconciliation brings about a time to re-examine our collective history, acknowledge the past truths, and solve these problems together, in unity.”
Scout and Marietta-Vasquez agreed that reconciliation doesn’t have to begin with grand gestures or elaborate plans.
“It’s as small as showing compassion to someone who needs help,” said Scout. “It’s giving someone a friendly smile, or taking the time to learn about someone else’s truths.”
The deadline to submit a creative expression is Thursday, November 1 at 5:00pm. Following the submission deadline, a panel of judges will select the winners, to be announced to the public during the week of November 19-23.
For more information and full submission rules, please visit www.lethbridgeunitedway.ca/reconciliation.