Between visible and invisible, an Amerindian drama
Lucas Olivet explores the frameworks and realities of Amerindian women victims of violence in British Columbia (Canada).
The Swiss photographer proposes a series - Medicine Tree - questioning with the painful memories haunted by loss and oblivion, the problematic mourning of indigenous women killed, and whose remains have not been found. The title covers an area severely affected by ecological problems, sacred rites and symbols called upon during ceremonies in memory of the disappeared. It also refers to a Prince George tree, an inexhaustible source of medicinal resin.
From photojournalism to image investigation, the series explores communities in the Prince George area. Thus, on the outskirts of the "highway of tears", some 50 missing or murdered people have been tragic cases, often unsolved since 1969. According to an Amnesty International report ("Stolen Sisters"), violence against indigenous girls and women is deeply rooted in the territory.
The document denounces "ubiquitous and widespread threats". It casts a grim light on the "isolation and social marginalization" of Aboriginal women in Canada, the racism, sexism, "cultural prejudice", "systemic discrimination" and "gender violence" they endure. It also refers to the authorities' botched investigations. Canada seems to cultivate an image of tolerance and social consensus. It is then another reality that appears. That of a country that is experiencing a series of murders and misogynous violence, taking the death toll to 1,200 indigenous women killed or disappeared nationally.
There are portraits and landscapes. Look at this young native girl who is surrounded by mist. She could be one of the next victims, mostly young. They are sometimes referred to as indigenous to include both Amerindians, Inuit and Métis. In the heart of a province experiencing a serious economic crisis and living with the polluting paper mill industries, Lucas Olivet zigzagged towards the neglected and their landscapes.
In her mobile home, Amanda, a precarious native woman poses with her baby in an old photo taped to a movable wall. The interior of his caravan is stained with coloured projections following a gas explosion. The family photograph is related to the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe taken from the film Seven Years of Reflection. Two models of happiness missing.
The history of local communities is kaleidoscopic, fragmentary, as for the short story that accompanies photographic work. Written by Lauren Haddad, the story is entitled PG (for "Prince George"). "The tree is one of the first things I notice on his lot, towering, majestic, really, its bark dripping with resin. It's a black spruce, a tree that's found in every one of Canada's provinces, a tree with a preference for harsh environments. Randy calls it his medicine tree in the middle of hell. "Maybe it weeps so much because it has to work so hard for all the poison here, he says”.
Artist's website: www.lucasolivet.ch