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Speech: Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Press Release

December 8, 2023

Hello,

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people.

It is common to hear land acknowledgements like these, which recognize the more complete history of Canada, a history that includes all voices, particularly those of Indigenous peoples who have been here since time immemorial.

Welcome to Rideau Hall and congratulations to those being recognized today with the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

This is a special day because it is the first in-person presentation of these awards since the beginning of the pandemic. Today, we honour four cohorts of these awards, and I’m delighted that we can come together to celebrate our artists.

Art is vital to reflecting our society and expressing our identity. It reveals who we are, as individuals and as a country.

Art provides an opportunity to share perspectives, thoughts and experiences. It can also foster understanding, empathy and connection among people of diverse backgrounds.

Through various media—such as painting, sculpture, art installations, film, printmaking and jewellery, just to name a few—we learn to appreciate different points of view and the stories that make up our country.

Throughout my mandate, it has been so important to me to find ways to incorporate reconciliation into the everyday, and art has played a key role in doing that. Showcasing Indigenous artists here at Rideau Hall is a way to start conversations, encourage reflection, support healing and introduce Canadians to the richness of Indigenous voices and cultures. And it’s just one way to show reconciliation in action.

Take, for instance, the installation Rideau Hall hosted this past summer by Métis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers, as part of her “Hope and Healing Canada” initiative. Bright red crocheted pieces at the entrance of the residence evoked the struggles of Indigenous peoples, and gave a vibrant voice to the full scope of Canada’s history. It encouraged people to stop. To pause. To ask questions of themselves and others.

This was an act of inclusion. It was about making space for Indigenous peoples, so their voices could be heard. Following today’s ceremony, I hope you will take the time to see some of the art work we have at Rideau Hall, to see the diverse voices on display.

One of those pieces you will see inspired an event we hosted at Rideau Hall a few months ago to mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. We brought together students to talk about the link between healing and art.

Meryl McMaster, the Indigenous artist whose work, Murmur, hangs in the Ballroom, was with us to lead the students in a creative activity.

After listening to a discussion on reconciliation, the students took maps and paper from old textbooks, and they created paper starlings. On each starling, they wrote what reconciliation means to them.

And these messages read like progress:

Hope

Community

Love

Understanding

Peace

Respect

Truth

Together, we are stronger.

This is the power of art.

All of you have devoted your lives and careers to art, by expressing yourselves through your chosen media or by supporting artists in the act of creation.

Your work is innovative, covering everything from the immigration experience and the history and culture of Indigenous peoples, to innovative and imaginative storytelling that reveals heritage and identity.

You reflect culture. You are mentors, teachers and pioneers. You show us the wonderful, the mythical, and the mundane. You shine a light on issues that impact our communities every day. You show us the challenges and the beauty of life.

By communicating important truths to a wide audience, you move our national conversations forward.

Your work encourages both reflection and action

Through your celebrated works, we see our society, our country and our world through your eyes.

I’m honoured to celebrate what you do for all of us.

Today we recognize your success and your contribution to Canada.

Once again, I congratulate you today on receiving this honour.

Thank you.

ILR5

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