Exhibition Commemorates Historical Battle and Canada's Coming of Age
TORONTO, March 27, 2017 /CNW/ - At the request of the French Government, critically-acclaimed photojournalist Racheal McCaig will be the sole Canadian artist to represent Canada at the official Vimy 100 Commemorative Events in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, France in April. Her photo exhibition, Je Me Souviens: Vimy 100, will officially open the town's new médiathèque on April 1 and includes 24 captivating images of the Vimy monument and original trenches and tunnels.
On April 9, more than 25,000 Canadians will journey to Givenchy-en-Gohelle, in Nord-Pas de Calais, France, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The battle is considered the most noteworthy in Canada's history as, for the first time, all four branches of the Canadian military came together to form and execute a daring plan: dig under the enemy line and launch a surprise attack. Our victory showed the world that we weren't just an insignificant colony; we were our own nation: young, courageous and strong. Approximately 30,000 Canadians fought at Vimy under the command of Lieutenant-General Julian Byng and by the end there were 10,602 Canadian casualties and 3,598 Canadians had died. The conquering of Vimy Ridge not only marked a turning point in WWI but a coming of age for our young nation.
It was during a Vimy 100 strategic planning meeting with the town of Givenchy-en-Gohelle and the Alliance Française when McCaig's photographs of the Vimy monument caught the attention of the mayor, M. Pierre Senechal. He wanted both an artist involved and a Canadian presence. In January 2016, McCaig was invited to represent Canada and Je Me Souviens: Vimy 100 was born.
Following the global vernissage, the exhibition will then travel to Paris for an opening on April 20 before returning to Canada for a cross-country tour starting at the Alliance Française in Toronto in June. Prime Minister Trudeau has extended his gratitude for McCaig's exhibition through a formal letter of recognition.
"Je Me Souviens: Vimy 100 is a personal reflection on a young country coming of age and the emotional echoes of a defining moment in Canadian history," says Racheal McCaig. "As an artist, my ego should be flaring since my art is being presented in France; but I'm more overcome with a tremendous sense of Canadian honour and pride."
Many of the images presented in the exhibition were taken during a family holiday in the summer of 2014 when McCaig's two children were then aged seven and 11. Always keen to put a historical spin on their travels, McCaig decided to take her kids to Vimy Ridge to see this mythical memorial they had heard so much about. On a particularly damp and rainy day, the three started their tour underground in the original trenches and tunnels Canadian soldiers occupied for months.
They rose from the trenches and followed the path up the main road to see the memorial. Just as they rounded the bend, the sun broke through the clouds and blue skies appeared. Sunbeams shone down as they saw it for the first time, this beautiful, gigantic, brilliant white edifice with twin pylons rising from the ridge like something from a Tolkien novel.
"We could not have scripted a better moment if we had tried, and the three of us stood there frozen in awe, mouths agape, taking in this truly incredible structure," reflects McCaig.
Her exhibition also includes several tombstones of Canadian fallen soldiers. "I had trouble focusing my camera lens because I couldn't see clearly through the tears as I saw the same date repeated over and over: April 9, 1917. Walking through rows of gravestones beautifully emblazoned with a simple maple leaf hammered home once again my sense of national pride."
"I've always told my children that whether they agree or disagree with why we went to war, they have the right to their opinion, not to mention their freedom, because we went to war. For that reason alone, we owe those soldiers our respect. I hope my exhibitions will do just that: respect the memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom," she adds.
For facts about the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, visit: http://www.veterans.gc.ca.
To download a selection of exhibition images: https://spaces.hightail.com/space/O0g64.
To see more of Racheal McCaig's work and for updates on the Canadian tour of Je Me Souviens: Vimy 100, visit: www.rachealmccaigphotography.com.
SOURCE Racheal McCaig
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