THIS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND: Land|Slide Possible Futures – Sharing Food & Indigenous Knowledge

Bouquet of fall flowers in mason jar

Settlers came here – many to escape poverty and persecution in their country of origin. The Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America) responded by sharing Indigenous knowledge such as the ways to prepare the local food during the harvest.

This Thanksgiving we can work towards creating a safe home here for everyone and consider Indigenous Rights as well as Aboriginal visibility in Canadian diversity.

Visit Land|Slide Possible Futures at the Markham Museum today and tomorrow for an engaging outdoor exhibit that dialogues around a deeper idea of diversity in our suburbs and cities as well as how to create sustainable communities on all levels.

& join the Idle No More Movement.

HAPPY (RE-THINKING) THANKSGIVING WEEKEND!

Carved wooden Indian figure in front of train car
Group of people sitting on grass listening to speaker
Woman sitting and smiling on the other side man speaking


Woman photographing a photograph of carved Indian figure in stereotypical dress posed in front of railway car.






Good for you tummy and your soul visitors to Land|Slide last night were treated to both Trinidadian and Anishinaabe comfort food with two types of corn soup and bread by artists Lisa Myers and Richard Fung.

More information on what is happening at Land|Slide Possible Futures this weekend on their website.

 

OPENING THIS WEEK: GTA Art Shows @ Ryerson, Textile Museum, Prefix, A Space, Markham Museum & Manifesto Festival

Jam-packed. Art. Week.

OPENING WEDNESDAY
Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art.

Ryerson Image Centre
6 – 8 pm
Runs until December 15

Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur in the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and self-empowerment.”  More info…

Farandole: Perspectives on Western Canadian Metis Culture
Textile Museum of Canada
6:30 – 8 pm
Runs until November 14

“The exhibition’s title refers to a traditional French dance involving a chain formed as dancers hold hands, moving along in the leader’s path, captured in the cyclical relationship of collaboration, appropriation, and inspiration at the heart of Farandole. Exploring the ongoing connections between Métis and francophone culture, the exhibition offers a unique look at the continuum of high end fashion and traditional costume, storytelling, beadwork, weaving and embroidery. An innovative examination of 21st-century identity, Farandole reinforces the Textile Museum of Canada’s commitment to engaging experiences and creative practices that provide insight into our global context.” More info…

OPENING THURSDAY
Trade Marks: Keesic Douglas, Meryl McMaster, Nigit’stil Norbert & Bear Witness
Prefix @ 401 Richmond
7 – 10 pm
Runs until November 23

“Trade Marks presents a new generation of Indigenous artists who, through their various artistic strategies, challenge and interrogate working assumptions of who they are. The exhibition contributes to the recently revived conversation on what it is to be Indigenous in Canada today. It also considers how these artists have responded to the imposition of Western systems of classification on non-Western arts and how their artistic practices have been informed by methodologies of decolonization.”  More info…

This exhibition is presented by Prefix in association with ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

FYI – As Part of CULTURE DAYS curator Betty Julian will be giving a walk-through of the exhibit on Saturday, September 28 @ 2 – 2:30 pm. More info…


OPENING SATURDAY
Manifesto’s Sacred Seven Art Exhibition
& Heartist Pre-Show Panel Discussion
918 Bathurst St. (Dupont)
Panel Discussion (RSVP to rsvp@themanifesto.ca )
4- 6 pm

“HEARTIST A pre-show panel discussion and audience talk back about the growth of mentor-mentee collaborations in Canada, how they work, and add value to the health of the Canadian arts sector.” More Info…

Sacred Seven Art Exhibition
6 – 1 am

“The 7th Annual Manifesto Art Show will explore the notions of connectedness and evolution as we present thought-provoking works from over 25 artist across Canada and internationally.” More info…

Land|Slide Possible Futures
Markham Museum
Runs until October 14

“Land|Slide Possible Futures is a groundbreaking large-scale public art exhibition which responds to a world in transition where the past, present and future collide. The landscape of Markham will be transformed by the work of over 30 national and international artists to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability, and community.” More Info…

For directions on how to get there from Toronto including directions for TTC & Free Shuttle Services from MOCCA on every Saturday starting September 21  as well as this Sunday, September 22 click here.

Lovesick Child: Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw, Leslie McCue, & Adrian Stimson
A Space Gallery
Runs until October 26
Opening Reception October 18, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Lovesick Child is Toronto’s first retrospective exhibition between A Space Gallery and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Aboriginal new media pioneer Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw. His work with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Banff Centre on a number of equity and new media initiatives such as Drum Beats to Drum Bytesin 1994 ensured Indigenous presence within the new territory of new media and the Internet.” More Info…

WRITTEN ON THE BODY/ POLITICS OF POETRY: Iranian Artists & the Power of Script Pt 2

Image of sculpture made from bubble wrap and words on wall behind it saying The Third Space

Curator Sanaz Mazinani’s show The Third Space is wrapping up this weekend at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. MIXED BAG MAG caught up with this busy and multi-talented woman whose career as an artist, educator and curator has her bifurcating herself between Toronto and San Francisco. In the second part (read Part 1 here) of MIXED BAG MAG’s look into the work of contemporary Iranian art Sanaz offers historical background to the contemporary foreground of some of the work included The Third Space and the symbolic and visual power of script.

 Classical Persian alphabet with Roman phonetics underneath

The History of Calligraphy in Persia

Persian Calligraphy has had a significant effect on the enhancement of Persian arts and culture. The various Iranian Calligraphic styles, such as Taliq, Nastaliq, Naskh, Thulth, Reqa, Towqi, Shekasteh, and Kufic each carry with them an emblem of an era of history. These decorative scripts allow the reader to visually enjoy the composition of the word, in a wholly new way, providing the viewer with multiple levels of engagement with the work of art.

Mother and son looking at images of art incorporating Farsi script
Artist Gita Hashemi‘s Book of Illuminations.

Contemporary use of calligraphy by Iranian artists

Many Iranian artists find inspiration in the traditional forms of Persian Calligraphy. However, few are able to successfully marry the traditional forms of calligraphy with a contemporary voice in new and successful ways. One of these artists is Gita Hashemi, whose recent project “The Book of Illuminations” is featured in “The Third Space” exhibition. In this work Hashemi explores the intersection between politics and the personal through calligraphic representations of culturally charged words. Her calligraphy paintings do not merely render poetic verses, but aim to unpack the meaning behind words that we use on a daily basis to symbolically question cultural in-tolerances. One example uses the word “غربتی” which is a derogatory term that comes from the root word “غربت” and means the longing for one’s homeland. But used as an offensive term, it takes on a new meaning and refers to that person as someone who does not belong, and does not fit into the norm. These terms shown here in proximity to the personal narration of the artist’s life writing speak to the expectations placed on us and the limitations of societal benchmarks. Hashemi’s The Book of Illuminations is a fresh approach to the long tradition of calligraphy from Iran and uses a feminist perspective to challenge this traditionally male-dominated, decorative practice by inserting the political into the equation.


Artist Gita Hashemi‘s Book of Illuminations.

In another project, Toronto based artist, Sona Safaei, uses the Farsi and English alphabet and essay writing styles  to uncover the differences in the two languages, which intern demonstrate alternative ways of thinking through a subject. Her process often engages with lost meanings in translations, as she questions the possibility of communications across cultures through looking at the self and the feelings associated with otherness. In The Third Space exhibition, Safaei-Sooreh two works respond to the meeting of two languages (English and Farsi). In Alphabet, the viewer finds herself in front of a split screen video as the camera tracks two alphabets being hand written in pencil – one in English, from left to right, and the other in Farsi, from right to left. A dense and textured sound enhances the experience of watching each gesture. The sounds from the left and right videos combine in a seamless collaboration. An amalgamation occurs precisely at the moment when the video loop comes to a close and both sets of alphabets have been written out tin their entirety. This charming momentary union marks an important occurrence, as the English alphabet includes 26 letters and the Persian alphabet 32, this serendipitous synchronicity signals a potential for cohesion of these two cultures. Safaei-Sooreh’s second work titled, Border is a dual channel video installation in which two sets of texts on the subject of art intersect at the corner of a room. The writing disappears on the borderline where adjacent walls meet, creating a unique experience for the viewer, as the piece examines the duality of experiences always at play in transcultural situations.


Artist Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s Alphabet.

CLOSING TOMORROW SUNDAY SEPT 15!
The Third Space is on at the Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Gallery.

LOCATION
235 Queens Quay W.
Toronto, ON
M5J 2G8, Canada
HOURS
Saturday: Noon – 6 pm
Sunday: Noon – 6 pm
For more information visit the website.

All above images courtesy of curator Sanaz Mazinani’s.

 

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Sakahàn at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Group of children Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin (top right) with some of the kids of the Sakahàn Youth Camp.

Sowing the seeds of change in programming for youth.

All of us have a story or two about a moment that was magical and breathed life into the parts of our mind that weren’t aware that we could dream so big.

Ottawa based Anishinaabe artist Melody McKiver tells of her mother, as a teenager, meeting Daphne Odjig – one of Canada’s great artists. Her father had taken her to an exhibit in Dryden, in the mid-70s. That chance encounter, although short, was powerful and pivotal in her mother’s life because she never knew that a Native woman could aspire to what Daphne had become.

If you can’t locate yourself in the faces of the makers of culture it may be impossible for you to know that the light inside of you has the potential to shine bright. Which is why programs like Sakahàn Youth are so critical. We won’t understand the full generational impact of Sakahàn on the Canadian cultural landscape  for a long time but I don’t doubt it will be pivotal for this country.

Left to Right: Some of the members of the Junior Curator Program. Children from the Summer Camp Program all at the opening night of Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity at Fall Down Gallery, Ottawa. Curated by the Junior Curators.

Sakahàn – meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples.

Artists working outside on rock carving with machines for cutting into stone. Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin and assistant working outside of the National Gallery on his piece “Nature Will Reclaim You” just one of the many outdoor works.

For Melody, also a co-organizer for Niigaan Treaty Workshops, it is the first time in her lifetime she has experienced Ottawa engaging with Aboriginal artists in such a meaningful way and she is encouraged by the positive change. The exhibit also engages the people of Ottawa as it extends out into the city in many different venues and events – inside / outside, Government institutions as well as artist-run centres, university campuses, & urban powwows. The exhibit even extends beyond the city to include Decolonize Me currently on at the Art Gallery of Windsor and shows like artist Jeff Kahm at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg.

Melody goes on to say that because of  “the way that Sakahàn is set up it commands a different level of thought and introspection than other exhibits of this scale.”

And it is this insertion and inclusion into so many spaces that repeats an important motif across the Nation’s Capital – that contemporary Canada includes strong Indigenous voices.

Woman standing in front of an art work at a gallery speaking to youth sitting around her on the floor.

Photo by Patrick Doyle of the Ottawa Citizen

Métis artist and the National Gallery’s Sakahàn Educator Jaime Koebel relates this story:

LARA – “She was a young girl who had participated in the Sakahàn summer camp tours. I explained to the youth about “Āniwaniwa” and how a building that the community had a special connection to was overtaken by a flood. This flood was created by industry people in New Zealand who needed a hydro-electric dam to produce energy for the diamond mine they were putting in. She cried because I related it to losing Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health or the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and having love for a building. [The loss of that building would mean] not being able to practice your culture or traditions or have community gatherings anymore “because, what if the Ottawa River covered it all?” like the Waikato River in Hora Hora did? It was an example of how much this can affect our next generation. The very next visit, she was explaining to a new summer camp youth about Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  piece – she was confident and she wasn’t crying, she was participating and had learned a little piece of Indigenous history.”


Aniwaniwa
from Tony Clark on Vimeo.

Maori artist Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  is one of the moving installations at the National Gallery that communicates, in an aesthetically stunning way, a painful memory. I doubt that there is a single work included at Sakahàn that doesn’t touch on deep pain but with 150 pieces by over 80 Indigenous artists from 16 countries it is clear that there is a growing global movement to express and explore the best way to communicate the legacy of trauma to audiences of all backgrounds.

While visiting Ottawa from New Zealand Brett Graham had a chance to lead a workshop with the summer camp kids. With incredible experiences like this, where the youth are up-close and personal with some of the leading international artists of our time, they get the chance to have many magical moments.

The spark created by Sakahàn will give our youth the chance to go on to create a new cultural legacy for this country. It’s going to be amazing to see the artistic fruits that these children grow.

Can’t wait!

Logo for Sakahan Youth


Trailer by filmmaker Melody McKiver for Sakahàn Youth‘s Junior Curator project – Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity

SAKAHAN CLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS GROUNDBREAKING EXHIBIT!

Sakahàn’s Youth Programs through the National Gallery include:

Youth Tours
Junior Curator Program
Sakahàn Youth Ambassadors
Our Ways; Our Stories
– a lecture workshop series

As well as partnership programs with the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition:
Sakahàn Youth Summer Camps
Concentric Circles – Artists stay at 3 local reserves (Kitigan Zibi, Pikwàkanagàn, Akwesasne) for 1 week
Sakahan School Programs – this program will continue past Sakahan’s closing date of Sept 2 into the school year.

Follow  Sakahàn Youth on Facebook and twitter @Sakahan_Youth.

Also check out the CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice’s coverage of the Sakahàn Youth program
Teaching through aboriginal art camp: Children in Ottawa are learning about the First Nations culture through the Sakahàn camp”

Poster for Youth programming for Sakahan with image of a stone carving of two hands joined by a lock.

 

WRITTEN ON THE BODY/ POLITICS OF POETRY: Iranian Artists & the Power of Script Pt 1

Cover of magazine with woman in chador, the barrel of a gun pointing out beside her right ear and Farsi script written over her face.

Establishing the Vocabulary of the Visuals

When Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s photography first started appearing the language, whether you understood Farsi or not, was explosive.

The images mixed violence, tenderness, and sensuality in a way I had never encountered before. I was used to seeing women valued in art as an aesthetic but not as a stage upon which a woman could perform an act of defiance by literally writing the script of her own point of view upon the body.

This was 1990s and the voices of women artists, especially of non-Western origin, were still muffled under the (wet) blanket of Modernity’s traditions in the way we were to experience art, talk about art as well as conduct the business of art.

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

“I feel a strong parallel between the writings of contemporary Iranian poets and my images, which visualize the metaphors that are so important in the text.” ~ Shirin Neshat in World Art Magazine, 1996

no one is thinking about the flowers
no one is thinking about the fish
no one wants to believe
the garden is dying
that the garden’s heart is swollen under the sun
that the garden
is slowly forgetting its green moments
~ Forugh Farrokhzād

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

For me, the contemporary art I was studying in university and experiencing in galleries felt foreign and unrecognizable – not so much to my eyes but to my soul. In the experience of Shirin’s work I found a homeland. It was the gestures – the female hands and lips. It was the look in the eyes staring from one female to another. This time a woman’s gaze was directing the compositional outcome.

Photograph on page of magazine with woman holding a gun between her feet and Farsi script written on the bottom of them.

Since that time there has been an outburst of women in art. Internationally the work of women is some of the most exciting work to be encountered. The art is layered with explorative technique and quick cleverness as well as being emotionally charged.

But the commentary provided in the work is not exclusive to the female mind. Much of the work being produced is about the experience of being human.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s installation Alphabet and Border, currently showing at York Quay Gallery (Harbourfront Centre) as part of curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s The  Third Space Exhibit uses a video of English text converging with Farsi script to get the audience to consider the contemporary condition of ever collapsing boundaries.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh installation “Alphabet and Border”. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Border is a video installation in which Farsi and English texts move towards a corner of a room and disappear on the borderline of two walls. It is about arbitrariness of rules and regulations, the sense of in-between-ness, duality and ambivalence that one experiences in a transcultural situation.

The borderline is a narrow vertical line between two walls: the joint. The place two walls meet.  This very “thin line” changes the direction of one’s eye, all of a sudden similar to geopolitical borders in between countries. One step back or forth one is occupied with different laws and orders.”

This beautiful short by Elnaz Maassoumian treats text in a different way less about its abstraction and more about the poetics of its meaning as interpreted by the viewer.

Untitled from Elnaz Maassoumian on Vimeo.

From literal translation of text back over to abstraction Elnaz’ piece featured in The Third Space exhibit is about the “Poetics of Space”.

Image from curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s Facebook page.

“I am interested in Gaston Bachelard’s idea from The Poetics of Space. Bachelard talks about different kinds of spaces: nests, shells, corners…These spaces are approached both from their physical and metaphorical aspects: they offer refuge and constitute ‘doors for the imagination’.  I am interested in the potentials of space. By this I mean the exploration of the possible uses that a space offers. I am approaching this through the reconfiguration of a given space to accommodate specific needs which can change over time. For these purposes, flexible, malleable materials constitute ideal means. They can be easily retooled or reshape to conform given purposes. They also open rich possibilities for redefinition of the relation between private-public; in-out; isolation-connection; visible-invisible.”   More images on Elnaz’s website

To gain more insight into Shirin’s powerful imagery, both in the still and moving image, MIXED BAG MAG recommends Tirgan Festival at Harbourfront Centre this coming weekend. Shirin will be giving talks on her body of work and there will be screenings of both her feature film Women Without Men as well as her shorts. All events are FREE!

FRIDAY, JULY 19
7 pm – Correlations of Visual Arts & Cinema Q & A with Shoja Azari, Shirin Neshat, Babak Payami @ Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre

9 pm – Collection of Short Films by Shirin Neshat @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre


SATURDAY, JULY 20

1 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre

9:30 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A

ONGOING

The Third Space Exhibit is ongoing until September 15 at Harbourfront Centre.

Work by Gita Hashemi. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

BEAT NATION: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture @ The Power Plant

Contemporary Aboriginal art in a large gallery space with white wallsInstallation view of Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture at The Power Plant, Toronto. 15 December 2012 – 5 May 2013. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

EXHIBITION – Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture
Exhibit runs until May 5, 2013.

More info on The Power Plant website
Also on The Toronto Star – “Beat Nation:Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture at the Power Plant: Review”

Contemporary Aboriginal art in a large gallery space with white walls
Installation view of Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture at The Power Plant, Toronto. 15 December 2012 – 5 May 2013. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

EXHIBITION: Shelley Niro at Centre 3 in Hamilton

Black woman and aboriginal woman standing in front of art work
Curator Sally Frater with artist Shelley Niro. Image from Gallery 44.

EXHIBITION – M: Stories of Women
A series of digital photo-montages curated by Sally Frater
Exhibit runs until February 23

173 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario, L8R 2K9
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Saturday 11 am – 5 pm

More info on Akimbo & Centre 3

Mixed media collage of Aboriginal Woman with wind turbines and upside down trees bordering the image
Work by Shelley Niro. Image from Akimbo.

OPENING: Migration Now by JustSeeds

Wood block print of older Muslim woman

FYI  – Opening of Migration Now by JustSeeds
NOTE: Due to weather conditions Friday’s opening is cancelled
Friday, February 8
OCADU Graduate Gallery
205 Richmond Street West
6 – 10 pm
Exhibit from February 8 – 14

www.justseeds.org
& www.migrationnow.com
Follow on twitter @JustSeeds & @CultureStrike
Like on Facebook JustSeeds & Culture Strike

“Indigenous Sovereignty Means Immigrant Rights”

IDLE NO MORE: Sharing in the Value of Contemporary Aboriginal Culture

Idle No More Logo with fist holding feather in front of Canadian Flag

As a whole we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Not only is Black History Month about celebrating the contributions African Canadians have made to our society but it is also about calling Canada out on its educational amnesia with regards to a history stretching back to our origins as a Nation.

Unfortunately the system has been slow to change and in the 21st Century we still have problems. The Idle No More movement shows that there is much to be done in acknowledging that as a whole we are greater than the sum of our parts. If there is historical or contemporary exclusion of any group of people in this country we all suffer.

So for the month of February, as we draw nearer to the rebirth of Spring, MIXED BAG MAG will be focusing on the process of cultural healing – what does it mean, how can it look, and where can we all go together?

One of the most powerful ways to transform our perspective is when we allow ourselves to see the humanity of another human being as shared with our own. Art, performance, music, and storytelling create spaces of understanding. As we watch with our eyes, listen with our ears, often our hearts open as well.

African symbol called Sankofa two curvy lines meeting in the shape of a heartTo kick off Black History Month in the spirit of Sankofa (an African symbol that means to look back at where you have come to understand where you are going) Mixed Bag Mag is going back to the source of this continent by showcasing and posting on Aboriginal Artists as Cultural Provocateurs.

In Toronto we are lucky to have some great events taking place this week into the next.

Logo for A Tribe Called Red, feathers like a headdress around a pair of headphones

WEDNESDAY at the AGO (6 pm at Jackman Hall) is an artist talk with Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red moderated by artist and educator David General. This event is hosted by OCAD University’s Aboriginal Visual Culture Program. More info on this event here!

Contemporary Aboriginal Woman
Image from www.powerplant.org.

On now at the Power Plant (on until May 5) is the exhibition Beat Nation.

“Beat Nation describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works that reflect the current realities of Aboriginal peoples today. #PPBeatNation(cited from www.powerplant.org)

Block cut printed poster of First Nations man in traditional dress with banner Indigenous Sovereignty Means Immigrant Rights Image from www.justseeds.org.

FRIDAY is the opening (6 – 10 pm) of JustSeeds: Migration Now!

“Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative is a decentralized network of 24 artists committed to making print and design work that reflects a radical social, environmental, and political stance. With members working from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, Justseeds operates both as a unified collaboration of similarly minded printmakers and as a loose collection of creative individuals with unique viewpoints and working methods. We believe in the transformative power of personal expression in concert with collective action. To this end, we produce collective portfolios, contribute graphics to grassroots struggles for justice, work collaboratively both in- and outside the co-op, build large sculptural installations in galleries, and wheatpaste on the streets – all while offering each other daily support as allies and friends.” (cited from www.justseeds.org)

This exhibition runs from February 8 – 14 at the OCADU Graduate Gallery at 205 Richmond St. West.

Mixed media collage of Aboriginal Woman with wind turbines and upside down trees bordering the image
Work by Shelley Niro. Image from Akimbo.

SATURDAY at Ryerson is the  “Pictures of by Indians” Symposium.

“Pictures of By Indians is a one-day symposium and discussion of photo-based art, culture and decolonization. This free public presentation will examine these issues through the practices of five internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists, and provide an opportunity to engage with the ways in which Indigenous photographic practices shape art and cultural discourses in Canada. The work of these artists represents a vast landscape of Indigenous artistic research, methodology and practice in the field of Indigenous photo-based arts and activism: Scott Benesiinaabandan, Rosalie Favell, Mary Longman, Shelley Niro and Jeff Thomas.” (cited from www.ryerson.ca/ric)

A joyful crowd of African Americans jeering white police man during civil rights movement
Image from www.ryerson.ca/ric.

Also at Ryerson Image Centre until April 14 is Human Rights Human Wrongs an amazing exhibit by British curator Mark Sealy of Autograph ABP.

“Using the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a point of departure, HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS examines whether images of political struggle, suffering and victims of violence work for or against humanitarian objectives, especially when considering questions of race, representation, ethical responsibility and the cultural position of the photographer.” (cited from www.ryerson.ca/ric)

Portrait of young blonde woman with hair in bun
Image from www.thepowerplant.org.

Sunday take advantage of Power Plant’s “Sunday Scene” where a guest comes to give a talk and tour of the latest exhibits. This Sunday artist and writer Kristie McDonald will be giving on Beat Nation.

“Kristie MacDonald is an artist and writer who lives and works in Toronto. She is currently the Archivist at Vtape. Her art practice engages notions of the archive and the collection, as well as their roles in the evolving meanings and contextual histories of images and artifacts. Kristie holds a BFA from York University specializing in Visual Arts, and an MI from the University of Toronto specializing in Archival Studies. MacDonald will speak about our current exhibition Beat Nation.”(cited from www.thepowerplant.org)

black and white headshots of middle age woman and young man
Image from www.powerplant.org.

Wednesday of next week return to Power Plant for In Conversation with Bonnie Devine and Dylan Miner.

“Bonnie Devine and Dylan Miner will discuss the emergence and significance of the artist/activist in historic and contemporary Indigenous aesthetic practice. Their conversation will address the convergence of art-making and political action to affect social change.” (cited from www.thepowerplant.org)

More events will be happening around the Beat Nation exhibit. You can find out more about each of them at www.thepowerplant.org.

Colourful wood block cut print poster with North and South American continents surronding by peace doves
Image from www.justseeds.org.

 

LOOKING BEYOND THE OBVIOUS: The Art of Chiko Chazunguza

Shift art show at BAND Gallery Toronto, artist Chiko Chazunguza
Shift: Chiko Chazunguza at B.A.N.D Gallery. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Reflecting on the Traditional in Transition 

Perhaps the most obvious comparison one might make upon seeing Chiko Chazunguza’s paintings would be to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. But to stop there would be like experiencing a Wifredo Lam painting in the Cubist style and expecting that its inspiration followed the same trajectory to creation as a painting by Picasso. Like these masters of Cubism, Chiko and Jean-Michel punctuate the compositional conversation with some shared visual shorthand and technique but the point from which they leap off of is, like Lam and Picasso, individually unique and located within their own cultural specificity.

Originally from just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, Chiko spent seven years in Sofia, Bulgaria on an art scholarship. While in Sofia he “was trained in the classical modes of printmaking, drawing and painting”. Upon arriving home though Chiko realized that in order to expand as an artist he would have to enter back into the culture of his youth so he could find a visual language that would be his true to his way of scripting a story.

“I wanted to pick a language I could use that was compatible to my history, my tradition.”

Painting by Zimbabwean artist Chiko ChazunguzaHuman walls by Chiko Chazunguza. 

Finding a New Visual Language

The inspiration of mis-registration, the effect given by the areas that overlap and bleed out in screen-printing, seemed appropriate for this cultural provocateur. It was Chiko’s experience as a printmaker that made him “approach painting with an attitude of non-conformity”, to shift the paint just outside the lines. This overlapping and layering, inherent in the process of screen printing, spoke to the layers of culture – traditional tribal, leftover colonial, urban contemporary – that blanketed Zimbabwe in repression upon Chiko’s return.

“It was like being in Sofia during the breakdown of the old regime. Communism was kicking its last kicks was a dying horse and the political condition that I arrived home to was much the same.”

But it was not until another move, another cultural relocation, that Chiko began the collection and style of paintings showcased at the  B.A.N.D Gallery for his show SHIFT.

Upon moving to Canada this artist, who is known back home for his installations that poke and prod at the socio-political contentions of a country in flux, picked up a pop can then oddly enough was inspired to paint.

Detail of mixed media painting by Chiko Chazunguza, pop can strips weaved throughNursery 2 (detail) by Chiko Chazunguza. 

It was the omnipresence of aluminum soda cans in Canada and their ease of acquisition that made them fitting as a symbol for consumer culture. Along with being ubiquitous they were durable – omni-persistent!

Mixed media painting by Chiko ChazunguzaNursery 2 by Chiko Chazunguza.

It was the “generousity of Canadians” who upon hearing he was an artist stocked him up with paint that got him started in combining the two materials to continue his theme of “reflecting on the traditional in transition.”

“Here food is always being advertised. It is at your doorstep, in your mailbox. Pop is a drink that is not necessary but it is always in front of you.”

Juxtaposed with hard memories of scarcity back in Zimbabwe, where people had to line-up single file into endless rows for basic staples, a vision was realized for a new body of work.

“Line-ups and people waiting in suspense for something to come, that was my inspiration…these line-ups look beautiful in their own way and you can almost forget the struggle…When there is a crisis, a shortage of basic commodities people behave differently and visually this informs.”

Mixed media painting by Chiko ChazunguzaPassage by Chiko Chazunguza.

Shifting our Ideas of Who We Are

Many of the paintings in the SHIFT show come with pop cans, liquor labels and food advertisements cutting through the canvas like interruptions. They are then woven over, around and through deconstructed figures, busy heading nowhere in never-ending cues for food, for water, for life. Urbanization in Zimbabwe led to the inability for one to produce his or her own food which had been the previous traditional practice.  A population of producers turned into a population of dependent consumers enmeshed (like the cans in Chiko’s work) in the ebb and flow of changing regimes.

“The figures are multi-faced; the disfiguration is because one’s face may change into all sorts of faces in that queue.”

While waiting in line with a stranger one can “start chatting, become friends, fall in love.” But by the end of the line the friend becomes the enemy and the lover a foe if one gets the last ration with nothing left for the one behind.

Mixed media painting by Chiko ChazunguzaNursery 1 by Chiko Chazunguza

Although the painted experience in Chiko’s work is intimately personal the anonymous quality of the figures in his paintings let them become the every(wo)man, no longer a “them” but an “us” as together, in this contemporary context, we face a future of scarcity on a global scale.

Following in the tradition of artists like the aforementioned Wifredo Lam we can see that Chiko, for his inspiration and call to action as an artist, draws from the common experiences of humanity in transition.

 “Through art, I reflect upon how issues such as spirituality, disposition, denied access and interference with basic commodities, and the painful evolution of ancient cultural traditions into contemporary yet uncertain urbanized communities, all shape and shift our constructed notions of identity.”

Pamela Edmonds the curator for Shift with artist Chiko ChazunguzaShow curator Pamela Edmonds of Third Space Art Projects with artist Chiko Chazunguza.

More of Chiko’s work can be viewed on his website www.chikochazunguza.ca or until March 31st at the The Lorraine Fritzi Yale Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario.

All photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.