Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

By Singh, Shraddha A. | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada


Singh, Shraddha A., British Journal of Canadian Studies


Literature, arts and criticism

Dylan Robinson and Keavy Martin (eds), Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016), 382 pp. Paper. ?30.99. ISBN 978-1-7711-2169-9.

Canada marks 2017 as the 150th year of its confederation, and a decade since The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which began to be implemented in the year 2007. One of the developments of this agreement was the founding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). The TRC spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses. It hosted seven national events across Canada to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential schools system, and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families. In December 2015, the TRC released its final report and 94 calls to action to 'redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation' (277, TRC Report).

Many of the TRC events witnessed an artistic chronicling of the aesthetic and sensory experience of the residential schools through music, visual arts, and Indigenous cultural practices, and that is the focus of Arts of Engagement. Some of the contributors also focus on artwork and exhibitions not affiliated with the TRC. The collection has 14 chapters, out of which there are 10 essays by Indigenous and settler scholars; and four conversations: with Lisa C. Ravensbergen, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Georgina Lightning, and Bracken Hanuse Corlett.

Interspersed with artwork, photographs, and literature, this collection takes on the exploration of the role of art in the process of healing, reconciliation, and political activism. David Gaertner's discussion of the act of testimony and David Garneau's essay raise questions regarding the aspect of apology and witnessing, which Garneau identifies as enactments of a Western religious ideology, and suggests an alternative in the need to develop 'irreconcilable spaces of Aboriginality' (p. …

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