A reproduction of Vancouver Island master carver Carey Newman’s installation The Witness Blanket is on display at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library until Sept. 30. (Photo courtesy Vancouver Island Regional Library)

A reproduction of Vancouver Island master carver Carey Newman’s installation The Witness Blanket is on display at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library until Sept. 30. (Photo courtesy Vancouver Island Regional Library)

Art installation examining residential school era comes to Nanaimo library

‘The Witness Blanket’ makes first B.C. appearance of three-year cross-country tour

A nationally touring art installation that recognizes children subjected to the residential school system and symbolizes ongoing reconciliation is finally returning to its province of origin.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library announced in a press release July 2 that from now until Sept. 30, Nanaimo Harbourfront Library will host a reproduction of the Witness Blanket by Vancouver Island master carver Carey Newman.

VIRL describes the Witness Blanket as “a powerful art installation recognizing the atrocities of the residential school era,” and notes that the piece is made up of hundreds of objects from communities across Canada that once housed residential schools. The original work includes the actual items, while the reproduction shows images.

The scale reproduction, measuring at about 12 metres wide and 2m tall, has been on the road since spring 2019 while the original piece undergoes conservation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Nanaimo Harbourfront Library manager Anthony Martin said the library is “honoured” to be displaying the installation, and added that its arrival is particularly timely.

“The importance of this piece, especially in light of the recent and ongoing discoveries at former residential schools, cannot be overstated,” he said in the release. “I encourage everyone who is able to visit the branch to experience this visceral, evocative and thoughtful representation of a dark and deeply traumatizing legacy in this country.”

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