Special to TC• Media
Staff, volunteers, guests and people without any connection to the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre (SJNFC) have been stopping by the centre to make tiny faceless dolls.
They glue pieces of fabric to hand-sized pieces of cut-out felt then decorate the fabric with buttons, beads and feathers.
The dolls represent murdered and missing women and children in this province.
Lori-Ann Campbell is the centre’s aboriginal women’s violence prevention coordinator, a position funded by the provincial government’s Women’s Policy Office.
During March, the centre is participating in the faceless dolls project – an initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).
In 2012 NWAC created a travelling exhibit of over 600 felt dolls to represent the lives of missing or murdered aboriginal women over the past decades.
This year, NWAC is encouraging aboriginal women and women’s groups to create their own exhibit for display in their communities.
Campbell says the SJNFC recognizes that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been affected by violence against women and children either through family members or friends or when they’ve heard about such crimes through the media.
That’s why she’s broadened the project to include all women and children from this province who are missing or have been murdered in the past few decades.
Although she admits her numbers are much higher than police statistics, Campbell said she believes at least 60 women and children from this province have been murdered or have gone missing.
“We’re not so interested in identifying them (for the story). We want to look at the big picture. Do we remember their names? Or do we talk about the offenders and what they are doing?”
Amy Lawrence of Bay Roberts works at the SJNFC. She did a lot of research in getting the project up and running.
She’s surprised, she said, how difficult it’s been finding information on missing and murdered women and children in this province.
“The project gives these people a life. They are more than just victims of a horrible crime. They had lives before they were murdered or went missing,” Lawrence said.
Allison Wight of Conception Bay South also works at the centre. She’s been busy chatting with those who have stopped by to make some dolls.
“Just the other day we had a young man in his twenties and a man in his sixties here all day making dolls.”
The process was an opportunity for the men to talk about violence against women and children, Wight says.
“This is all about bringing awareness about all the women and children who have been murdered or are missing in this province. The faceless dolls are just a physical representation of these people,” Wight said.
“I know there are so many cases of young women in Labrador who moved away to St. John’s and they were never seen again by their families. We want those families to know that they haven’t been forgotten…” - Lori-Ann Campbell
Campbell is from Stephenville and has been learning more about her ancestry since the formation of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band.
The faceless dolls exhibit will include a memory book about the women and children and a write-up about how the project came about and what it represents.
Once the exhibit is complete, Campbell said, she’d like to share it with any organization or group that might want to use it as a teaching/education tool.
The public is invited attend a get-together for the faceless dolls project that gets underway at the SJNFC on Water Street at 6:30 pm on March 19.
Campbell is reaching out to families in all parts of the province and particularly those living in Labrador who know of a missing or murdered woman or child so that they can be included in the exhibit.
“I know there are so many cases of young women in Labrador who moved away to St. John’s and they were never seen again by their families. We want those families to know that they haven’t been forgotten and that their story need not end this way. We’d like to hear more about their family member. We’d like to honour them and remember their beauty.”