Tania Willard, ‘Groundtruthing’ (2022) vinyl banner, satin ribbon, hair extensions
Text by curator Denise Ryner
This series of podium banners are centred around the image of a plant called Cypripedium Montanan in Latin, but is known in English as “Mountain Lady’s Slipper” or “Moccasin Flower” which derived from some of the Indigenous communities where variations of this plant species is found. Through Willard’s references to naming and the narratives attached with this plant, we are encouraged to think about the division between traditional and modern knowledge enacted in the wake of the European Enlightenment-era, the role of Indigenous ceremonial and knowledge systems in claims to place, and the violent attempts to supplant Indigenous knowledge and cultural life through the Indian Residential School systems that were operated by Christian Churches throughout North America.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School near to Willard’s home in Secwépemcul’ecw was amongst those where the genocide of the Schools became apparent through the discovery of the first 215 unmarked graves, using ground-penetrating sonic radar in 2021, these residential school casualties, unmarked graves, are represented by the waved lines running through Willard’s banners.
Beyond Secwépemcul’ecw and North America, there are species of Moccasin Flower orchid growing throughout Europe as well as South America that have spurred local myths and taken on religious or ritual symbolism.