'Disposable Red Woman' Makes Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Impossible To Ignore

Emma Paling
A guerrilla art installation in Calgary titled

The message is simple: wake up.

Two artists are challenging Calgarians to confront Canada's scores of missing and murdered Indigenous women this summer with a guerrilla installation called "Disposable Red Woman."

The piece is as literal as art gets. A mannequin, tied up and wrapped in a bloody sheet, is laid on a sidewalk in a busy pedestrian area. Nearby, a sign explains the title and gives background on the crisis.

Artists Destin Running Rabbit and Iman Bukhari created the work with the support of The Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation. They call their piece a "social experiment."

"You can chose to ignore the news, but when it's in your face... that's hard," Bukhari told HuffPost Canada in an email. "It's essentially a call to action. We want to wake people up."

A 2014 RCMP report states about 1,200 Indigenous women either disappeared or were murdered between 1980 and 2012. But Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has said the number "is way bigger than 1,200."

"Disposable Red Woman" asks why Indigenous women, girls, trans, and two-spirit people are disposable in Canadian society, Bukhari said. Two-spirit is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous nations to describe people who have both a masculine and feminine spirit.

"This piece is meant to evoke empathy and urgency," Bukhari explained. "Saying 'that's sad' is not enough... you need to examine the reality around you and you need to listen to the people it actually affects."

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Canadians are "all rightfully upset about terrorism or the violence in the States, but why are we not outraged about injustices to the people of the land we live on?" Bukhari added.

She and Running Rabbit consulted Indigenous activists and a group of Indigenous women who've lost friends and relatives before designing the piece.

The response in Calgary has been "very positive," Bukhari said.

"A lot of Indigenous folks, especially women have come up and thanked us," she said. "A lot of people are touched and emotional as well. Some walked away, while others shed tears. Quite a few people also were hearing about the crisis for the first time, which of course is alarming."

The piece will be shown several more times in Calgary this summer — "when you least expect it," Bukhari said.

They also hope to raise money to tour the piece across the country, as a sort of alternative message to Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations.

"Sure everyone loves the happy stuff, but what about the real stuff?" Bukhari said. "This art needs to be acknowledged as well."

To learn more about how to support the cross-country tour of "Disposable Red Woman," contact the artists here.

Previously on HuffPost: