Prince Albert artist creates Orange Shirt Day design to symbolize hope after residential schools
A 20-year-old artist from Prince Albert has created an Orange Shirt Day design unique to the city to signify hope after Canada’s residential school history.
Ailah Carpenter is an arts student at the University of Saskatchewan. The City of Prince Albert selected her to create a design to be printed on shirts worn on Sept. 30, known as Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“The theme that I was trying to go for was hope. Of course, hope is just hopeful for the future, hopeful for good things to come. But, to me, there is more than one aspect to being hopeful,” she said.
The design includes four elements: children, a butterfly, stars and eagle feathers. Each portrays a different meaning of hope, said Carpenter, such as a butterfly as a symbol of transformation and eagle feathers as symbols of strength.
Ailah Carpenter created the design ‘Flying Back Home’ for Prince Albert to recognize Orange Shirt Day. (City of Prince Albert/Submitted)Carpenter said her great grandmother and grandfather attended residential schools.
"It really impacts your family in a way that you wouldn't understand unless you've been through it,” she said.
“There's intergenerational trauma. There's stuff you hold back because of the kind of abuse you go through in those schools, and it trickles down. It's hard to unlearn how to not think so stiffly or think so cruelly, even towards yourself. I see that in my family as we, I guess, get to know each other again, get to know each other’s culture.”
Now that Sept. 30 is recognized as a federal statutory holiday, Carpenter hopes people don’t just treat is as “a holiday.” Instead, she wants people take the day to learn and reflect on residential schools.
“I believe that a lot of the things we deal with, a lot of the issues we have in our communities now, stem from pain that just has never been healed.”
Carpenter said she explored Indigenous styles from the coast, prairie land and the arctic when creating the design, which she named “flying back home.”
The shirts will be available at the Prince Albert Indian and Métis Friendship Centre. They’ll be sold to cover the cost of production, according to the City of Prince Albert.