Black History Month
In case you forgot Black History Month is in full swing. Although, if you’re a reader of this blog, I don’t think you’d forget. What I do hope is that you’ve gotten a chance to catch some of your city’s Black History Month programming.
I have to say that I’ve been spoiled as a Torontian and even more so as a photographer. As you may recall, Ekow Nimako’s Building Black: Civilizations is on at the Aga Khan Museum until February 23rd and I was asked to create a photo series in response to his work. Not only was it an honour to be asked to participate, this was an opportunity to look at my work through a lense that was new to me. Afrofuturism. And I wrote about it here.
Panel: Contemporary African Art Practices in a Globalized World
To learn more about Ekow Nimako’s work, I also attended a panel discussion held at the Aga Khan Museum called Contemporary African Art Practices in a Globalized World where Nimako along with a number of black scholars that were new to me, spoke about their personal practices and the role of Afrofuturism in helping black representation in art not only survive but thrive.
This panel was enlightening because there I was, sitting in the first row in front of really smart black people with top education in art. Not in medicine, engineering, accounting or anything deemed safe. Trust that I love black people in STEM as much as everyone else’s parents but there is just something about black people excelling in non-conventional fields that inspires me. And I was getting my ENTIRE life with this panel of four whom along with the host included three curators, two PhD’s in Fine Art and an internationally recognized artist. It really got me thinking about my own future in that way. Here are their bios (not written by me):
- Dr. Mark V. Campbell (host) is a DJ, scholar and curator. His research explores the relationships between Afrosonic innovations and notions of the human. Dr. Campbell is a former Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Fine Arts at the University of Regina and is currently the Principal Investigator in the SSHRC funded research project on Hip Hop Archives. As co-founder of the Bigger than Hip Hop radio show in 1997 and founder at Northside Hip Hop Archive in 2010, Mark has spent two decades embedded within the Toronto hip hop scene operating from community engaged praxis as both a DJ and a Curator. Mark’s forthcoming books include B-sides and ‘Othered’ Kinds of Humans, the co-edited collection of essays, Hip Hop Archives: The Politics and Poetics of Knowledge Production with Murray Forman as well as Hip Hop in Canada: Diasporic and Indigenous Reverberations with Charity Marsh. Dr. Campbell recently published …Everything Remains Raw: Photographing Toronto hip hop Culture from Analogue to Digital as part of his recent Contact Festival exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. He has published widely, with essays appearing in the Southern Journal of Canadian Studies, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society and the Journal of World Popular Music. His popular writing can be found in various public sources, such as the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star as well as hip hop magazines such as Urbanology.
- Dr. Julie Crooks (panelist) is Associate Curator, Photography, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where, prior to her appointment, she was an advisor on the 2015 exhibition Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. She received her Ph.D. in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where her research focused on historical photography in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and the diaspora.
- Ekow Nikamow (panelist) studied Fine Arts at York University and began using black LEGO® pieces exclusively in his practice in 2014. He has since cultivated a unique approach to building the iconic material with masterful attention to fluidity and form. His content is deeply rooted in otherworldly Black narratives and draws on his fascination with architecture, futuristic cultures, and ancient civilizations.
- Chiedza Pasipanodya (panelist): is an artist, curator, and writer born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and now living in Toronto. She holds a BFA from OCAD University, where her thesis was titled New Perspectives on Black Women Artists in Canada Participating in the Arts for The Long Term, and where she won an award for work that redefines the meaning of community. She has worked with the AGO, the ROM, Pride Toronto, OCAD, and York and Ryerson universities.
So ,what did I take away from this panel aside from #lifegoals? That black art matters. our presence, point of view and perseverance matter. That through our concerted efforts to uncover our history through art and deliberately build awareness for it, we are building a future where blackness is not a tokenized afterthought. And I think that’s what Afrofuturism is all about.