"We didn't think at the time the images would be painful and upsetting."
Images of bound and gagged Indigenous women make up part of Bathurst, New Brunswick, festival
By Miles Howe[I]t was with some consternation that two paintings, both centrally situated in town and both prepared by local artists working with the Bathurst Art Society for the Hospitality Days festival, depicted Indigenous peoples in a manner that many folks have since taken offence to.
The first image depicts two Indigenous women in full length buckskin dresses, with their hands bound behind their backs and their ankles tied. It seems as though they are captives on a boat. Their mouths are gagged with something resembling duct tape. They facial expressions appear to be resigned to whatever fate awaits them. One has simply closed her eyes.
The second image shows a priestly-looking individual standing in front of three Indigenous people. In front of the crowd are two treasure chests filled with nondescript items. To the casual observer, it might pass for a sermonizing scene, for all intents and purposes rather paternalistic to boot.
No explanation–rational or otherwise–accompanied the two images in the storefront window in which they appeared.
For the duration of the festival, the images appeared in the Main street-facing window of the former Sportsmen Pub building, which, perhaps to make matters worse, is the site of the unsolved murders of Diane Aubie and Gary DeGrace.
The explanation:Initially, the 'Heritage Days' committee's response to the mounting criticism over the depictions in the paintings was to publicly provide a link to the legend of the 'Phantom Ship'. The legend outlines the story of how “sea marauders” would commonly pillage Indigenous villages on the New Brunswick coastline, ransacking them, stealing furs as well as kidnapping women to later “have their way” with them. The two bound and gagged Indigenous women in the painting, apparently, were two such victims, expecting to be raped and murdered–except that in the case of the 'Phantom Ship' they met up with a crew member of conscience who demanded that they be set free.
And the "apology":“We got together and we decided to do the story of the Phantom Ship. On Friday, we learned that our paintings did offend some people, so we did revise it,” says Gates. “We took the two Native people out. And we're really sorry that there was any offence taken...It wasn't our intention to create a misunderstanding or even to negate the Indigenous people. We just didn't think at the time that the images would be painful and upsetting and of course we do respect their culture and stories very much.”
A few comments from Facebook:This is terrible. Really, terrible. I can't even comprehend what they were thinking. I just, I can't.
We are not animals.
Even the "apology" has my head spinning. How could someone put these images in a very public place and not expect harm? Not expect rage? Effing incredible.
"We just didn't think" pretty much sums it up. No need for anything more.
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