By Michelle Boon
On Wednesday, the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre was transformed into a visual protest against racism.
Curated by lead artist Camille Turner, the exhibition Arts Against Post Racialism works to combat the existence of “blackface” on Canadian campuses through a variety of media by prominent Black artists.
On entering the Agnes on Oct. 25, guests were greeted by artist Nadine Valcin’s video installation titled Emergence. Her series of slow motion portrait shots, double projected on the walls of the Agnes, presented the beauty and strength behind Blackness. It offers an image of Black identity before it was appropriated.
Moving on to Unwearable by Esmaa Mohamoud, this piece rejects blackface in the form of Black faced masks that have sealed backs — making them literally unwearable and impossible to appropriate. While this piece isn’t colourful or extravagant, it embodied the protest against racism found throughout the exhibit.
This full day event also celebrated African-Canadian artists like Quentin VerCetty. His body of work entitled Think Tomorrow, imagines a future in which blackface is an archaic concept of the past. The shifting holographic image of two African busts in Water No Get Enemy, portray this utopian society through bright colours and a surrealist-like landscape.
The use of holographic images also invites viewers to not only linger over each piece, but also to pace back and forth and watch the images evolve. While most print art is simply stared at in museums, VerCetty’s work allows people to engage with the art through the use of these unusual holographic images.
As a non-Black student, I appreciated the interactive aspects present throughout the exhibition. The event wasn’t a mere call for change from African Canadians; it was a prompt for conversation.
That day, VerCetty also hosted a workshop at the Agnes, inviting guests to make collages pertaining to campus racism.