Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art opens at the ROM

Monday, 26 February 2018 19:00 – Sunday, 22 April 2018 20:00
Location: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), 100 Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario
Category: Community


The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to present a new ROM-original exhibition Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art , presented by TD Bank Group. Opening on Saturday, January 27, 2018, this multidisciplinary exhibition brings together nine Canadian contemporary artists to explore the deep rooted histories and enduring presence of Black culture in Canada. Through the artists’ work, Here We Are Here examines the complexities of art, race and historical identity in Canada. The exhibition will be on display in the ROM’s Third Floor Centre Block until Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art is an important exhibition that grapples with current and historical interpretations of Black culture and identity in this country,” says Josh Basseches, the ROM’s Director and CEO. “The work represented in this exhibition not only encourages visitors to re-examine their idea of what Canada is, but offers a broader telling of the Canadian story through the Black Canadian experience.”

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 Hike at 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 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. PetrosSign 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.

The team of curatorial experts leading the exhibition consists of Dr. Silvia Forni, ROM Curator of African Arts and Culture; Dr. Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO); and independent curator, Dominique Fontaine. A joint curatorial statement from Dr. Silvia Forni, Dr. Julie Crooks, and Dominique Fontaine explains the intent of the exhibition: “Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art affirms both the longstanding and current relevance of Blackness to the overall fabric of Canada. Contemporary art offers us a particular vantage point from where to reflect on issues of race, exclusion and belonging. This exhibition defies a singular narrative; it shifts paradigms, and encourages us to unlearn and learn more about history, art history and how we curate contemporary art shows in the Canadian context.”

"TD Bank Group is pleased to support the ROM and the artists in this exhibition centering the voices of our Black Canadian artists," Stuart Keeler, Senior Curator, TD Bank Corporate Art Collection, Contemporary Canadian Art & Inuit Collection.

A lineup of programming related to Here We Are Here has been scheduled to inspire further dialogue and conversation:

  • January 26, 2018 – An exclusive ROM Connects evening of insider insights by the exhibition`s artists.
  • January 26 – A Here We Are Here themed Friday Night Live (FNL) featuring live performances, food vendors, and gallery activations related to the exhibition.
  • February 8– A ROM Daytime event that gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look the exhibition with the curatorial team.
  • February 11– This ROM Connects afternoon event features an interactive poetry performance with Dr. Afua Cooper.
  • March 4 – A ROM Connects event featuring Jessica Karuhanga’s reading of When blue falls in to the ocean.
  • April 10 - A ROM Speaks keynote presentation by Toronto-based poet, writer and lawyer, NourbeSe Philip.

After its debut engagement, this ROM-original exhibition travels to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (MMFA), opening on May 12, 2018.

Presented by:

TD logo

Exhibit Patron: Hal Jackman Foundation

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