Legal residents will honour Canadian soldier Romeo Dallaire this week as a new mural is unveiled as part of a community celebration.
The 47th annual Fête au Village kicks off in Legal this Friday starting at 7 p.m., says organizer Lisa Magera. The annual fair celebrates the community’s francophone roots.
About 2,000 people are expected to visit Citadel Park on Friday and Saturday for parades, pancakes and beer, Magera says, as well as tug of wars and the ever-popular demolition derby. “It’s like a homecoming every year.”
This year’s party is dedicated to the armed forces, Magera says, so they’re unveiling a new mural dedicated to Dallaire.
Dallaire is a bilingual Canadian hero, says Ernest Chauvet, co-ordinator of the Legal mural project, and his struggles in Rwanda reflect the challenges all soldiers must face.
“They go into difficult situations, but they do bring hope and they do make a difference.”
This is the 33rd of 40 murals Legal hopes to have by 2012, Chauvet says, each dedicated to a different theme.
Artist Jacques Martel says he’s put about 300 hours of work into this piece. “It’s sort of a tribute to the armed forces in a roundabout way.” He based the truck-sized mural on photos of Dallaire taken in Rwanda.
About 800,000 people were killed in 100 days during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Dallaire was in command of the UN peacekeeping force stationed there at the time.
The left side of the piece shows Dallaire before the symbol of the United Nations, Chauvet says, recalling how he called, in vain, for the world to send soldiers to stop the killings. Below is a scene of a soldier approaching a burning oil derrick in Iraq, which the world invaded in the Gulf War just a few years before.
“There was no oil in Rwanda, so they didn’t go in.”
The centre shows a scene from Dallaire’s memoirs, Martel says, where he carried a woman’s body down a street. Dallaire is approaching an intersection, he notes, which splits into two paths. “Will Rwanda go to where it was before with all the conflict, or will it go forward?” Nearby, saddened children recall the thousands of kids killed or orphaned by the conflict.
The right shows the present and future of Rwanda, Martel continues. Dallaire is shown sitting on a hill as he did when he returned to the country years after the genocide. Above him are children in colourful clothes playing soccer.
Martel says his favourite part of the piece is the upper right, which shows two women in bright-coloured dresses. One, he notes, is smiling with a child in her lap, while the other looks more pensive, capturing the uncertain nature of the country’s future.
A soldier’s life
“I find that a lot of people don’t know much outside of their borders,” Martel says. He says he hopes that the piece will help people think about the struggles soldiers go through and the world outside Legal.
It’s a controversial topic for a mural, Chauvet says, but it gets its point across. “How do you honestly represent the Canadian Forces?” he asks. “It’s not all roses; it’s difficult, but in the end it’s positive. The community falls back into place.”
Dallaire continues to make a difference in the world by campaigning against the use of child soldiers in war, Chauvet says. “He’s a real hero for attacking such a difficult problem in our world.”
Dallaire, now a senator, was invited to the unveiling, Chauvet notes, but couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict. His office could not be reached for comment about the mural.
The mural will be unveiled at the Legal gazebo at 11:30 on Saturday, Chauvet says, and will eventually be placed by the town’s information centre.
Questions on Fête au Village should go to Magera at 780-961-7695.