Leprosy on Sheldrake Island, New Brunswick
Beginning in the late 18th century, leprosy was a public health challenge along sections of the eastern coast of New Brunswick. Mostly afflicting Acadians, the problem was so severe that in 1844 the New Brunswick Board of Health sent thirty people suffering from leprosy to Sheldrake Island, at the mouth of the Miramichi River, far from their home communities. They endured difficult conditions. Some resisted their confinement by escaping to the mainland; and there was significant outrage over their situation, fueled by Acadian resentment of a forced resettlement that conjured up memories of their eighteenth century deportation. This resentment led to the their relocation in 1849 to a new facility, closer to their families. Artwork will be constructed on a site, on the grounds of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church, the white church building in the photo, that overlooks the island. This story was brought to the Lost Stories Project by the Sheldrake Commemorative Committee, residents of the region, eager to make what happened on the island better known. This episode is facilitated by Ronald Rudin, Professor of History at Concordia University.
Marika Drolet-Ferguson is originally from the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick. In her practice as a visual artist, she looks at landscape as a cultural construct: beyond what we see on the surface, she is particularly interested in how we look at things. It is through film-based photography that she explores how the surrounding environment also becomes the one that inhabits us.
Marika’s work has been exhibited at the Galerie d’art Louise-et-Reuben-Cohen de Moncton in the context of the group exhibition, « Punctum : sept approches photographiques » (2013). In addition she has been artist-in-residence in Sweden (2014), and at Olafsfjördùr in Iceland (2015). In 2016, she had a solo exhibition at the Salle Sans Sous of Moncton’s Centre Culturel Aberdeen; she participated with the Collective m+m+m in Moncton’s Symposium Art-Nature; she took part in a group exhibition at the Galerie Bernard-Jean in Caraquet; and she taught a course in the Département des Arts Visuels at the Université de Moncton. Marika has studied visual arts at the Université de Moncton and architecture at both Université Laval in Quebec City and the University of Genova in Italy. She continues to refine her practice as a visual artist alongside her work in architecture.
After studying film production at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Acadian filmmaker Julien Cadieux dedicated himself to directing and editing documentary films in New Brunswick.
His films bring together his interest for the arts and his admiration for the beauty of the people of his country. His first film, Habiter la danse (NFB), a portrait of a young Acadian dancer, takes stock of the dance scene in Acadie. His next film, Guilda : Elle est bien dans ma peau (SRC) is a journey into the complex universe of the famous transvestite. Fascinated by the beauty of the Acadian coastline, he also directed Le Chant du phare (SRC), a tribute to the coastal heritage and a call for its preservation. This theme is also at the heart of the two seasons of the documentary series Les Iles de l’Atlantique (SRC) that explores the many facets of island life. In addition, he directed the musical web series Laisser le bon temps rouler (TV5).
WORK IN PROGRESS
March 2017 – Filming has begun!
The filmmaker Julien Cadieux and artist Marika Drolet-Ferguson walking on the ice for 500 metres from Bartibog (where the artwork will be installed) to Sheldrake Island, March 2017.
May 2017 – Work in progress
During an afternoon of filming, artist Marika Drolet-Ferguson and filmmaker Julien Cadieux discussed the progress of the project and the series of photographs under development. Photos : Marika Drolet-Ferguson, 2017
The artist Marika Drolet-Ferguson during a film shoot in Tracadie. Photos by Julien Cadieux, 2017.
Meeting of the Sheldrake Commemorative Committee at the Community Hall in Bartibog Bridge, NB, to discuss the project to be installed in New Brunswick in September 2017. Photo by Julien Cadieux, 2017.
Inauguration of artwork on September 17th 2017 in Tracadie-Sheila, New Brunswick!
Below, inauguration of Marika Drolet-Ferguson’s public artwork in Tracadie-Sheila, New Brunswick. Detail of one of the panels and view of the artwork on the site. Photos by Julien Cadieux and Ronald Rudin (detail of panel)
The story of Sheldrake Island and of those who remain buried there will not be forgotten
A commemorative ceremony will take place Wednesday, July 19 from 2 to 4 pm at Église St Jean Baptiste et St Joseph in Tracadie to remember the tragic event that befell New Brunswick during the 19th century.
On July 19, 1844, the first group of people suffering from leprosy were taken willingly or not to Sheldrake Island. After five long years of suffering and exile, the New Brunswick government deemed it then necessary to build a lazaretto in Tracadie. The time has now come to remember the 32 people who were sequestered on Sheldrake Island, the 14 people who were transferred to the lazaretto in Tracadie as well as the 15 unfortunate who were buried on Sheldrake Island.
In addition to a presentation on the origin of leprosy and its occurrence in New Brunswick, you will also be made aware of the conditions under which these people were made to live through a presentation of songs, poems, and a narration during which actors will represent those stricken with this disease.
Following the ceremony, you will be invited to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque placed in the cemetery where people suffering from leprosy were buried in Tracadie. Thus, we will remember the pain and distress, as well as the great courage and determination of the first Acadian families that settled in the North-Eastern part of our province.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, the unveiling of the work of art created by Marika Drolet-Ferguson in conjunction with the project Lost Stories, a Canada 150 Signature Event, will take place at a later date.
Welcome to all!
For more information, please contact: Paulette Robichaud: 506-395-6180, Sheldrake Commemorative Committee
REVIEWS AND PRESS
Radio-Canada ICI Nouveau-Brunswick, September 18th 2017
Une oeuvre rappelle l’histoire des premiers lépreux à l’île Sheldrake au 19e siècle, article by Héloïse Bargain
CBC News – New Brunswick – Information Morning – Moncton, interview of January 18th, 2017
Professor Ron Rudin of Concordia University and Marika Drolet-Ferguson of Tracadie update us on the project to commemorate Sheldrake Island.
Acadie Nouvelle – An article by Sylvie Mousseau, January 20th, 2017.
“Une artiste de Tracadie réalisera une œuvre sur l’histoire de l’île Sheldrake”.
CTVNews.ca, June 5th, 2017
Concordia University, July 24th, 2017
Concordia-led Lost Stories project set to unveil 4 public art projects across Canada
An article by Christian Durand