Courtesy Canada Council for the Arts
Robert Burke, Children and Change, 2013
Robert Burke, Children and Change, 2013, acrylic, 54” x 90"
Robert Burke, originally from Fort Smith, N.W.T., creates paintings based on his memories of residential school. Burke’s mother was Chipewyan and his father a black American soldier stationed in the North. Abandoned at birth, he was placed in residential school at four and spent time at institutions in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., and Edmonton. “The food, living conditions and treatment of the children were substandard,” he says. “There were constant verbal and physical assaults. Focused hatred made you realize how trapped and helpless you were.” Burke, a full-time artist for about 15 years, says the schools taught him how to survive, but he functioned in "a cloud of anger" and it took a long time for him to understand how to apply that knowledge to his life.