Sonya Cywink's love of writing and family remembered during Shades of Our Sisters

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: EMILY STEWART
The Shades of Our Sisters Installation at Fanshawe College honoured the life of Sonya Cywink through her personal belongings, letters she wrote to loved ones, and a short video.

The Fanshawe College community got to know Sonya Cywink through her writing, artifacts from her life, and a short video documentary.

The Shades of Our Sisters Installation, a multimedia project honouring the lives of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, Transgender and Two-Spirit Peoples (MMIWGT2S), had a Traditional Opening for its week-long run in M3001 on the evening of Nov. 4.

The installation featured letters Cywink wrote to her friends and boyfriends, childhood photos, information about her future plans and a video put together by family, friends, and Ryerson University students to show who she was as a person instead of a statistic.

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“As part of the installation, we acknowledge that she has passed but we don’t actually talk about why or how,” said Chris Hannah, the student success advisor at Fanshawe’s Institute for Indigenous Learning. “That’s not really part of the conversation.”

Before the College saw the documentary, Meggie Cywink spoke at the event honouring her sister’s life.

“This is a joyful installation. It’s to celebrate her life,” she said during her speech. “This is an opportunity to share with the public [and] share with people, not about her tragedy, but who she really was as a human being and I think many times we forget that as individuals as we’re looking at the lives of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

She added that the death of her sister, who was pregnant with her unborn son at the time, is a reminder to honour and protect women and girls and that violence does not discriminate between economic statuses, race, or any other factor.

“Either we know someone or we know of someone who has been affected by violence, so this is an opportunity to look at those people around us, love those people and those women in our lives,” she said. “Give them a safe place when they don’t have that safe place. Give them and help them find the resources that they need to live better lives.”

The Traditional Opening was held in conjunction with the London Abused Women’s Centre’s (LAWC) Shine the Light on Woman Abuse campaign, which runs for the entire month of November and also honours Cywink’s life.

Leah Marshall, Fanshawe’s sexual violence prevention advisor, said the installation shows the impact of her death.

“When we take the time to look at the life of someone, opposed to just looking at the numbers of over 1,200 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls,” Marshall said. “We give context to the impact of the loss of life and so this is a celebration of her life and acknowledging that this is a life that touched many other lives and she’s missed by many people.”

The College’s students, staff and faculty viewed the Shades of Our Sisters Installation until Nov. 8.