Arts·Point of View

What'll be big in 2018? From Black Panther to Drake, an arts and pop culture crystal ball

Amanda Parris looks ahead at the themes and patterns that give her hope for the new year — and shares her predictions for what we'll see in arts and culture.

Amanda Parris looks ahead at the themes and patterns that give her hope for the new year

Black Panther arrives in Toronto theatres February 16, 2018. (Marvel Studios)

We've finally bid adieu to 2017 — a year that often felt like an apocalyptic roller coaster ride, what with natural disasters, the threat of nuclear war and the orange one whom we shall leave unnamed.

I've already made a list of my favourite moments in art and culture for the year (read it here). But in constructing it, I also began to observe themes and patterns that gave me hope for what's to come in 2018.

These are some trends I hope to see in the year ahead.

Art that calls out Canada's ugly truths

In the spring of 2017, Jalani Morgan's public art installation — The Sum of All Parts — was slashed by an unknown vandal.

The exhibition, which appeared at a busy Toronto intersection, was a series of large-scale black-and-white photos, a combination of portraits and images of mass protest. It was a striking tribute to Black Lives Matter activists, people who have brought uncomfortable conversations of systemic racial injustice to the forefront of a Canadian political culture.

​In response to the vandalism, Morgan did not replace the images. Instead, he highlighted the gashes with bold red thread, forcing the public to acknowledge the violent act and the continuing resilience and resistance of the Black communities.

Visual art in 2017 has opened the door for numerous uncomfortable but necessary conversations that force Canadians to confront the country's violent past and present. This was just one example.

Others include Kent Monkman's critically acclaimed touring exhibit Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience and Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai's Wanted series. Turner and Pirbhai transformed Canadian fugitive slave ads from the 1700s into contemporary fashion advertisements. The work appeared on a billboard at Toronto's Yonge and Dundas Square and also in the AGO's Every. Now. Then exhibition.

Next year, at least two exhibitions promise to keep the uncomfortable discussion going.

At an AGO First Thursday event, gowns by Esmaa Mohamoud were worn by the same models in her photo series, One of the Boys. (Courtesy of AGO)

In Toronto, Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art opens at the Royal Ontario Museum January 27. The group exhibition promises to have audiences thinking differently about their understanding of Canada through the work of artists such as Sandra Brewster, Esmaa Mohamoud and Gordon Shadrach.

And at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts this spring, the legacy of Picasso will be re-examined through a timely topic: aesthetic appropriation. Face to Face From Yesterday to Today, Non-Western Art and Picasso will bring his work into conversation with contemporary creations by African artists.

The continued rise of Canadian R&B

When CBC Music named Daniel Caesar's Freudian as the best album of 2017, I almost shed a tear.

As the host of Marvin's Room, CBC Radio's R&B show, I've made it my mission to convert this rock-loving country into a nation that also appreciates the possibilities of R&B and soul — and each week I am pleasantly surprised by messages of support from individuals in small towns and communities.

Expect new music from Drake in 2018. (City of Toronto)

My mission has been greatly aided by the incredible amount of talent that exists in this country. The rising popularity of artists such as Caesar, Jessie Reyez, dvsn, Cold Specks and Majid Jordan has been beautiful to witness, and this year saw each of them release critically acclaimed albums.

Next year I hope the momentum will continue with new records expected from the R&B duo Rhye and Canada's own singing and rapping "6ix God," Drake.

Women's stories taking centre stage

It was the year of #MeToo. In 2017, brave women who have suffered harassment and assault shared their stories and took down powerful men in so many industries — film, sports, politics, media, technology and beyond.

Meanwhile, the best shows on TV were about the same thing — women standing up to violent men and the systems they create.

Big Little Lies and The Handmaid's Tale were both critical and commercial television hits this year, dominating awards season and speaking directly to the zeitgeist. And 2018 promises more TV about complicated, recognizable and brave women.  

Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman and Retta in Good Girls. (NBC)

The second season of Jessica Jones arrives on Netflix March 8, with the less-than-perfect Marvel superhero returning to the streets of New York. And the upcoming crime drama Good Girls, starring Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Retta (Parks and Recreation), looks like an amazing take on a group of women who decide to revolt against the limits of their lives — by robbing a supermarket. That one premieres on NBC in February. 

There are books to look forward to, as well. Roxane Gay is editing a new collection of essays by writers including Gabrielle Union. Called Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, it promises to be an urgently prescient addition to the current cultural conversation. The book is due out in May.

A Black History Month that's lit AF

When I was growing up, Black History Month was the time to acknowledge and honour key historical figures, but in recent years, February has become a month for key moments in contemporary Black pop culture.

In February 2016, Beyoncé performed "Formation" at the Super Bowl, Kendrick Lamar transformed the Grammys' stage into an African diasporic conceptual art piece and Rihanna and Drake released two music videos for "Work" — clips that brought Caribbean culture, in all its glory, to the mainstream.

Last year was just as amazing. Get Out arrived in theatres (arguably the best Black horror film ever made), Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture, Jay-Z was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Beyoncé delivered the most iconic pregnancy announcement of all time.

Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira in a scene from Black Panther. (Marvel Studios)

This year promises to be even more epic with the release of Marvel's Black Panther. (I've never done cosplay, but I'm seriously considering it for this.)

On TV, Atlanta returns for its highly anticipated second season and HBO premieres the comedy special 2 Dope Queens.

In books, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele release When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Technically, the book arrives in stores January 16, but I'll be reading it in February. Black History Month is going to be LIT.

Dystopian sci-fi grows up

As news headlines start sounding more surreal, dystopian sci-fi isn't just escapist fun — it's a terrifying projection of what may come.

A still from The Handmaid's Tale. (Hulu / George Kraychyk)

Franchises such as The Hunger Games and Divergent were massive Y.A. hits in the past, but in the last couple years, we've seen a rise in dark sci-fi stories that are more geared to adults — and that's especially true on TV. Think of series like The Leftovers, The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid's Tale.

The Leftovers concluded in June, but new seasons of The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid's Tale are expected in 2018. Plus, a second season of HBO sci-fi thriller Westworld is due in the spring.

The cover of Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orisha (Volume 1). (Henry Holt and Co.)

And for any teenagers feeling left out, they can look forward to Tomi Adeyemi's debut novel, the first in a series called Children of Blood and Bone.

Inspired by Black Lives Matter, it's a young-adult fantasy set in West Africa. Out in March, a movie is already in development.

It's hard to tell from the synopsis whether it's set in a dystopian world, but it sounds absolutely fascinating.


Amanda Parris writes a weekly column for CBC Arts and is the host of Exhibitionists on CBC Television and Marvin's Room on CBC Radio. In her spare time, she writes plays and watches too many movies. In her past lives she wrote arts based curriculum, attended numerous acting auditions, and dreamed of being interviewed by Oprah.