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Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art Closes April 22, 2018

“Wonderfully subversive exhibition resists the idea that viewers must walk away with an easy grasp of Black Canadian identity” Chris Rattan, NOW Magazine

“…a vital update on what it means to be a black Canadian from the antebellum era to today.”

Toronto Life


The Royal Ontario Museum’s acclaimed exhibition Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, presented by TD Bank Group, will close on April 22, 2018. This exhibition brings together the multidisciplinary work of nine Canadian contemporary artists to explore the deep rooted histories and enduring presence of Black culture in Canada, and examines the broader complexities of art, race and historical identity. Following its debut in Toronto, this ROM-original exhibition will travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (MMFA), where it will open on May 12, 2018.

The art, presented in different mediums and viewed from both the artists own personal perspectives and as a shared experience, challenges audiences to think about preconceived notions of Black culture and what constitutes Blackness in Canada. Sandra Brewster’s composition Hiking Black Creek evokes the experience of the artist’s parents as newcomers to the country, encountering the Canadian landscape together. Her work is a meditation on the emotional labour of belonging, of connecting with one another and one’s surroundings. Michèle Pearson Clarke’s video installation Suck Teeth Compositions (After Rashaad Newsome), creates a choral symphony structured around an everyday oral gesture shared by Black people of African and Caribbean origin and their diasporas. Through the use of spoons, video and a book, Chantal Gibson’s multimedia installation Souvenir challenges the interpretation of people of African descent as being “displaced”, and “disappeared” in Canadian narratives.

Sylvia D. Hamilton’s Here We Are Here uses sound, images and objects to reflect on the history of trade and slavery, black resistance, resilience and defiance, encouraging audiences to think about the connection between historical facts and the current political and social climate. In Sweet Childhood, Bushra Junaid repurposes archival newsprint ads and text, asking the viewer to consider the ways in which Black subjects, particularly children, have been depicted over time. In Charmaine Lurch’s Being Belonging and Grace, paper maps with figures form beats and interruptions expressing belonging and invisibility. Esmaa Mohamoud’s Untitled (No Fields) presents a multi-textured wearable sculpture of football gear fashioned from West African print fabrics. This work draws on the gesture of taking a knee as a form of protest. Dawit L. Petros’ Sign is a chromogenic digital print of a contemporary Black male subject portrayed as a modern-day interpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s iconic Self-portrait at 28 (early 1500). Gordon Shadrach’s painting In Conversation, presents a portrait of a young Black Canadian woman who can be seen as both somewhat resistant to the viewer’s gaze and a self-fashioned icon, representing the multiple facets of a contemporary woman.

On April 10, 2018, visitors can explore these conversations further at a ROM Speaks keynote performance titled Zong!, featuring Toronto-based poet, writer and lawyer, NourbeSe Philip. Philip will deliver a moving performance of a selection of works from her recent poetry cycle based on the legal decision, Gregson v. Gilbert, at the end of the eighteenth century, and the mass murder of Africans on board the slave ship Zong.

Here We Are Here is included with Museum admission. 

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