ee leh (Our Mother(s) Tongue series) (detail), 2017

Original size is 2042 × 3064 pixels

Catherine Blackburn

Beads, pins, velvet, gel photo transfer on canvas, cotton

18.5 x 19 x 8 cm

NFS

The intimately sized cushions first present themselves as they are, a symbol of comfort within domestic contexts. The front side features images of Blackburn’s family members’ tongues and mouths punctured by pins in the formation of Dene syllabics, which are also intricately beaded on the velvet back. Although the work presents itself in a pristine manner, they reveal the dark history of language loss within the residential school system, where Indigenous children were taken away from their families and punished for participating in their culture.

““Many of my family members attended residential school, with various accounts of residential school survivor experiences. I was made aware of one particular scarring reality. Among numerous ways of reprimanding children in residential schools for speaking their mother tongue, many had their tongues pierced with pins.”
– Catherine Blackburn