They didn't know we were seeds

The Diefenbaker Canada Centre's Gallery is temporarily closed until January 26, 2022. Please check back for more information on re-opening dates. In the meantime, please explore the online version of this exhibit.

November 17, 2021 to February 2022

In April 2016, artist Carol Wylie attended the Saskatoon Holocaust Memorial service. As survivor Nate Leipciger spoke of his horrifying experiences in a Nazi death camp, and his ongoing efforts to educate and shed light on these atrocities, she was struck anew by the extent of abuse a human being can endure at the hand of another. Several events followed that service, and Carol was reminded of the residential school experience of 150,000 Indigenous children.

Indian Affairs Superintendent Duncan Campbell Scott, in 1910, called residential schools “The Final Solution,” preceding Hitler’s similar pronouncement regarding the “Jewish problem.”  Separating families, cutting hair, taking away names and assigning numbers were oppressive methods of dehumanizing and othering. Interestingly, both groups of survivors have connected around strategies of survival and healing. Holocaust Survivor Robert Waisman, who meets with Indigenous Survivors and talks about his experience at Buchenwald, speaks of “a sacred duty and responsibility” toward helping residential school survivors heal. He states, “we cannot, and we should not, compare sufferings. Each suffering is unique…I don’t compare my sufferings or the holocaust to what happened in residential schools. We did it [survived] – so can you.” Both Indigenous Survivors and Jewish Survivors speak of a solidarity forged from the shared need to find ways of healing personal and generational trauma in the wake of horrendous abuse and attempted genocide, and to educate.

This exhibition consists of eighteen portraits of Jewish Holocaust and Indigenous Residential School Survivors. In Jewish tradition, eighteen represents the word 'chai', which means life. Themes including trauma, ongoing recovery, shared pain, and the indomitable human spirit, are central to this work. With numbers of Holocaust Survivors dwindling, and the same eventual loss of Residential School Survivors, these portraits remain and continue to reflect the strength and courage of these individuals.

*L: Carol Wylie, "Robbie," 2018, oil on canvas, 36" x 48" R: Carol Wylie, "Eugene Arcand #781," 2017, oil on canvas, 36" x 48"