Bizindaadiwag, a new public art project made up of two benches in Point Douglas, was unveiled with the community at the end of October. The design was led by Ryan Gorrie, of Brook McIlroy in collaboration with landscape architect Suzy Melo, J Neufeld of Wood Anchor, and the curatorial team at Urban Shaman Gallery.
The name, which translates to “they listen to each other”, is an action to make audible Indigenous language present and publicly available. It creates an opportunity to hear language communicated by different ages and voices and provides a place to pause, listen and learn.
The two benches are made at the height of a child and of an adult. Both benches have integrated audio of Indigenous language and are connected by a zig-zag pattern on the ground.
“The zig-zag is symbolic of the path of our lives with each of the seven points representing a different stage in our lives,” said Gorrie. “We enter the world as spirit and leave the world as spirit.” The vertical elements which hold the audio components represent the spirit. “The audio portion of this project created a very creative and fun way to learn the language, by pushing buttons,” said Janell Henry, curator and coordinator for the Speech Act Project.
Bizindaadiwag is part of the Speech Act Project, which was created by Urban Shaman Gallery, in partnership with the Winnipeg Trails Association. Speech Act’s special programming utilizes Indigenous art to contribute to the enrichment of Indigenous knowledge as well as the prevention of the loss of Indigenous languages in the Winnipeg area and worldwide online.
A member of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek, Gorrie’s work strives to ensure the perpetuation of Indigenous culture through creative opportunities ranging from the crafting of traditional items for ceremonial use to large-scale landmark architecture.
“Since my first language class with Roger Roulette in university many years ago, I have been on my path to reclaim our language,” said Gorrie “It’s very challenging and rewarding to build back our identities.”
Bizindaadiwag is a permanent installation located on the south side of Michaëlle Jean Park. The language component of this project has the potential to evolve and change periodically, and the hope is to partner with content providers to realize this portion of the project.
For more information on the Speech Act Project, visit www.urbanshaman.org.