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Through a child's eye: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights
September 01, 2022
| Author Jillian Recksiedler
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights' temporary exhibit ARTiculate Our Rights is the perfect reason for parents to bring curious minds on a visit to learn how art is a vision for human rights and a voice for change.
A visit to Manitoba means travelling through Treaty 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Territory and through communities who are signatories to Treaties 6 and 10. It encompasses the original lands of the Anishinaabeg, Anish-Ininiwak, Dakota, Dene, Ininiwak and Nehethowuk and the homeland of the Métis. To learn more about Manitoba's Treaty areas, click here.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is eight levels full of thought-provoking content, some of which is even too emotional and mature for this 41-year-old to grasp. Yet, each time I visit, I am so glad I do. I walk away with new knowledge and a new perspective on global human rights from this landmark national museum.
When I learned about ARTiculate Our Rights, a multimedia exhibit featuring over 100 pieces of art by Manitoba youth, I knew it was the perfect way to finally introduce my nine-year-old to the museum.
Like most fourth graders, she loves art. She is curious about different cultures. She was gifted a voice that she's not shy to use (for better and for worse). She empathizes with others. And what I admire most: she has an innate sense of fairness...or justice, as I see it. I had a hunch that the museum could become her new favourite place.
We have passed by the museum many times over the years, and she always comments on its gigantic facade. It always represented a sort of forbidden castle to her...until today.
As soon as we entered "the roots" at ground level, she was entranced by the dynamic wall of shadowy figures greeting her with different ways to write welcome. She eagerly guessed at a few of the languages.
Even though our visit was focused on the art exhibit on Level Six, we were compelled to first wander through a few permanent galleries along the way. In the Indigenous Perspectives gallery, we marveled at a beautiful, seven-metre-long beaded octopus bag and learned about Métis Road Allowance communities.
We exited the Canadian Journeys gallery and started our ascent via the stunning Alabaster walkways. My daughter gasped at the site of the glowing white ramps, "You know what this looks like? Hogwarts!" she said, creating a connection to Harry Potter, her latest obsession.
I did not anticipate how much joy the architecture of the museum would bring my daughter, who took her time to walk all the pathways, to peak into every nook or cranny, and to admire views from every balcony or terrace. The shear grandness of the building meant there was a lot of space and privacy that we could truly explore at our own pace - with zero concerns about physical distancing.
We finally reached Level Six Expressions gallery, one of two temporary exhibit spaces at the museum, and felt warmly greeted by the high-energy, youthful vibe of ARTiculate Our Rights. Neon lights and colourful flags adorn the small exhibit space. The centrepiece is a long projection wall where over 100 pieces of colourful, digital art take turns appearing.
The artwork, created by Manitoba youth across the province aged 13 to 18, expresses their views on human rights and how it affects themselves, their families and their communities. A question wall asking "Why are youth perspectives important?" challenges everyone as they enter the space. I was about to discover my answer.
I sat down on a bench with my daughter, pulled her closer, and watched a 20-minute projection of all the inspiring art. We talked...or rather she talked and I listened.
"That one has music notes around the world. I think it means harmony,"
"I like that one because it's a dove and a dove means peace."
"Hey, this one shows a feast from around the world to see how everyone eats different foods."
The projected art is organized into various categories such as 'Equality' 'Reconciliation and Resilience' and 'Inclusion and Diversity'. So the exhibit also gave us the opportunity to talk about the meaning of some of these terms that are fundamental to human rights dialogue.
"Hey that artist is from Wawanesa!" she said, pointing at the byline, proud to make a connection to her family roots.
As an adult, I am guilty of thinking that human rights are a layered issue. Spending time at ARTiculate Our Rights with my daughter taught me that it doesn't have to be. The art work - and her reaction to it - wasn't overly profound or nuanced. It was innocent, joyful and hopeful.
And that's why youth perspectives are so important.
After taking in the all artwork and a few interactive displays, we headed up a level to the Expressions Gallery for the perfect wrap up of our visit. The gallery asks guests to join the conversation about human rights by writing down their thoughts on topic cards and displaying them.
My eager student loved the opportunity to express her thoughts for the world to see (no surprise here). She chose the 'Inclusion' card and proudly crafted her words, while I chose to share my thoughts on the meaning of 'Reconciliation.' She loved the exercise so much that she asked to write a second card.
We concluded our visit with a climb to the top of Israel Asper Tower of Hope where we looked below at our hometown and looked forward to the horizon.
Maybe it was the sun beaming in our face, but we felt happy. And fortunate. Fortunate to have a gem of a museum like this in our backyard that we can visit anytime for a change of perspective.
ARTiculate Our Rights is located on the Level Six Expressions Gallery until May 31, 2023. General admission to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which includes this exhibit, is $18 adult, $7 youth. Under 6 is free. CMHR is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free Fridays nights from 5-9 pm.
Hi, I'm Jillian, a marketer, communicator, traveller and Manitoba flag waver. Growing up in rural Manitoba during the '80s means I have a penchant for daytrips, maps (the paper kind), and prairie sunsets. I never tire of sharing stories about my home.