College of New Caledonia (CNC) fine arts instructor Betty Kovacic unveiled her largest piece of work ever Wednesday titled Shadows of the Past.
The mural, a First World War Internment Project is a six-by-16-foot painting, located outside the college cafeteria, which commemorates and recognizes the experiences of ethno-cultural communities affected by Canada's first national internment operations from 1914 to 1920.
In December, 2009, Kovacic was awarded $19,500 from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. The grant was used to create the four-section, acrylic and mixed media piece.
Opening remarks were made by Andrew Hladyshevsky of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and CNC president John Bowman. Each thanked Kovacic for her work that took almost two years to complete. Hladyshevsky said these little-known events were part of what he considered one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.
"You have to understand my generation grew up with no knowledge of this event in our history," said Hladyshevsky. "It was not taught in schools."
During Canada's first national internment operations thousands of Canadian men, women and children of Ukrainian and other East European descent were branded as enemy aliens. Many were imprisoned at various locations across Canada and forced to do heavy labour in the country's hinterlands such as Banff National Park and Spirit Lake camp in the Abitibi region of Quebec. People were stripped of any wealth they had, disenfranchised and subjected to other state-sanctioned censures, not because of anything they had done, but only because of where they had come from.
"Requiring a great deal of research, Shadows of the Past has presented an opportunity for a greater understanding of the events that happened in Canada during the First World War," said Kovacic. "This level of research has resulted in the growth of a deep compassion and empathy for both the internees and their families."
Kovacic said she hopes those that view the work will experience and understand the issues and events of Canada's First World War Internment Camps.
"Art speaks to the viewer on a profound level in a manner that cannot be achieved by the written word alone," she said. "The aesthetic elements of art can elicit emotional responses including compassion and empathy as well as deep levels of comprehension. I hope this piece adds to the visual richness of Prince George while revealing important information about Canada's past."