AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH ENDS: Reflecting on Wedge Curatorial Collective & Jon Blak @ The Gladstone

Jamall Brothers by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Looking back and forward at the Wedge Collection.

A few times a year Wedge Curatorial Collective produces shows that explore Black Identity from the perspective most often located in the Caribbean Diaspora.

Image by Dennis Morris

My earliest memory of Wedge is back sometime around the early part of the millennium. Wedge’s founder, Kenneth Montague, had set up an exhibit of British-Jamaican photographer Dennis Morris’ work in his home (the original gallery space for Wedge exhibits called Shift Gallery). I met Dennis, who was in attendance, and became interested in the work Ken was doing as he was one of the people working to fill in the gap between fact and fiction when the institutions of culture overlooked contemporary narratives of Blackness.

Fast forward a decade and Ken has turned Wedge Curatorial into something much more than exhibits of photography. Wedge has become about conversations – around race, identity, community and culture. And Wedge has certainly played a part in working towards closing that gap by providing the necessary insertion of Black Identity into cultural institutions like the ROM with exhibits such as Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity.

This year Wedge has partnered again with the Gladstone Hotel and TD Bank for the “Then & Now Black History Month Series” to present local photographer and youth educator / mentor Jon Blak. Titled HOME Jon’s work is about reaching back to his familial roots in Jamaica while dissecting what it means to be a product of a culture here in Canada, that because of its hybrid mix, can at times cause feelings of dislocation.

Wall of Fame by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Half of the exhibit was photographs of subjects located in Jon’s memories of Jamaica and contemporary youth culture. The other half of HOME spoke to the memories Jon has of the elders in the local Caribbean community who played a critical role in his own youth. There were several rooms full of warm and intimate images of tailors, shopkeepers, and barbers – all the enterprising individuals who added a new layer to Canadian identity while keeping strong ties to the cultural associations back home.

Oakwood by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

One room was ‘stacked’ floor to ceiling with photographs that almost convince the viewer that the room is stocked with all the staples one needs to cook a satisfying meal. It’s the replication of the West Indian shop that speaks to the collective memory many of us have from growing up in suburban and urban Southwestern Ontario – a place where you could buy a ‘ting’ or two.

Image by Yannick Anton.

On the night of the opening the install was interactive with boxes of the staples come to life – scotch bonnets, plantain, and callaloo as well as loaves of hard do bread were handed out to the lucky guests while peppery corn soup was served hot and fresh by One Love Vegetarian Take-out.

Image by Yannick Anton.

The night was a reminder of how much the culture of the Caribbean has infused the culture of Canada. Maybe now the conversation about what is home will become less dislocating because of projects like Wedge that support emerging artists who document the facts of Blackness in Canada.

For more information on Wedge Curatorial Collective projects and shows visit their website or follow on Facebook and on twitter @Wedge_Toronto.

For more of Jon’s work visit www.jonblakfoto.com.

GIMME ONE RIDDIM: Ska & The Soundtrack to Jamaica’s Freedom

Poster with image of a black couple from the 60s dancing

Ska – Jamaica’s new freedom soundtrack having recently gained independence from the United Kingdom.

“It is the year 1963. The heat of the island is soaring through the rooftops and rising from the dancing bodies at the Sounds Systems street party in Kingston, Jamaica.  The new sound and love of music in this island, resides in the heart and soul of ‘ska.’ A unique musical blend of rhythmic African music and New Orleans jazz, this sweet, new and popular sound pumps through the speakers and resonates through the island becoming Jamaica’s new freedom soundtrack having recently gained independence from the United Kingdom after 300 years. This is it; a new sound, a new musical revolution, a new meaning, a new life, a new creation of history influencing the island and the world forever.”(cited from Gimme One Riddim website)

Gimme One Riddim is the newest work by Toronto talent Jasmyn Fyffe. Jasmyn, along with Natasha Powell, co-produced and choreographed this play

Gimme One Riddim runs March 13 – 15
Winchester Street Theatre
80 Winchester Street
Toronto, ON M4X 1B2
Click here for a map

The Ska beat and style aesthetic went on to inspire mashup culture in places like Coventry, England with the 2 Tone genre – a criss-crossing of Ska, Rocksteady, Punk, New Wave and Reggae whose vibrations crossed an ocean to inspire more fusing in places like Southern California with bands like Fishbone and No Doubt. For many people I know the 2nd and 3rd wave of Ska was the soundtrack of their youth!

And what a great soundtrack it was! Thanks Jamaica! One love!

Grab your tickets on the Gimme One Riddim Eventbrite page.