Black Canadian artists do exist, as new arts movement shows
Canadian Black Speculative Arts Movement bringing together black artists imagining future identities
Rosalind Hampton, a researcher in art education, is participating in a convention about a new black arts movement because she says she is concerned for young black Canadians' sense of self.
"This perception that there are no black artists in Canada, that, as one youth told me, visual art 'isn't for black people.' Of course that's not true," Hampton wrote in an email.
"Having a Canadian Black Speculative Arts Movement coordinated by a new generation of Black Canadian artists is a crucial way to build on this increasing visibility and to determine its terms."
Right now the Black Speculative Arts Movement of Canada is helping address some of Hampton's concerns.
An important focus of this first-time event is sharing ideas around practice and production of art and to discuss issues around spaces to exhibit and present. It will also give artists a chance to meet and make connections.
BSAM Canada looks to bring together artists of African descent in Canada, city by city, who are using their imagination to create artwork that is not based on reality.
Like in literature, speculative refers to elements of science-fiction, and in the case of BSAM, speculative also means work with elements of horror, gothic, afro-surrealism and afro-futurism.
It is a branch of the movement that already exists in the United States, founded by Reynaldo Anderson and Maia "Crown" Williams.
The work in Canada is being spearheaded by Gatineau-based, Toronto-born artist Quentin VerCetty.
"It's helping us to contribute to the Canadian identity, really. We just had Canada 150. Now we're talking about what does the next 150 look like," VerCetty explained in our conversation on CBC Radio's The Bridge.
Multidisciplinary artistic movement
BSAM Montreal's convention will have three panel discussions — one with visual artists, another between scholars including Hampton and one featuring performance artists.
There is also a marketplace featuring the work of black artisans.
Poet and theatre producer, Kym Dominique-Ferguson and singer and composer, Elena Stoodley are both participating in BSAM Montreal's launch, while putting on the last two productions of Phenomenal 5IVE.
"Phenomenal 5IVE is an artistically political act of resistance. Punctuated by the beauty and grace of 5IVE phenomenal women, rising no matter the challenges," Ferguson said.
"With the exception of during the talk-back, onstage you see no male presence. The presentation and handling of it are by mostly women of colour, or Afro-descended people. They embody the mandate of BSAM."
Works by BSAM artists
"As much being an artist participating, and a visitor at this convention, it seems to me to be an extraordinary regrouping of rich and diverse art," Maliciouz said.
"The [African] diaspora and the discussions that happen with the diaspora are so complex that I think forums like this are so important," Jamie Bradbury said.
"So that we can kind of understand that we have different histories and we have different starting points, even with our own understandings of blackness is or where we see it going in the future, especially in the Canadian context."
"Going up to the North is really about creating the links between Indigenous people and people of African descent" Bradbury added. "I want to create dialogue dialogue and understanding."
"Movements like the BSAM arise out of a sharp need, a hole in society, something that is not being provided," Anna Jane McIntyre said.
"I feel like things haven't radically shifted since I was a kid. Not enough. Some things are fab and some things are still highly mediocre."
"I want to see an unselfconscious variety in ways of thinking and being; hybrid overlapping intermingling cultures being presented as normal and unremarkable," Anna Jane McIntyre said.
"Especially in kids shows. It shocks me and I feel motivated to try and fill those gaps, provide alternate views."