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Newmarket exhibit examines the heart of Africa

Black history exhibit features Lego builder, photographic artist, intergenertional artists
Jan. 27, 2020
Simone Joseph

Black history is about much more than just slavery and the underground railroad.

“Slavery is not Black history. It’s an interruption,” Jerisha Grant-Hall said.

Grant-Hall is Chairperson of the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA).

Her association has partnered with the Town of Newmarket to organize a Black History Month exhibit that aims to go back to pre-colonial times and highlight achievements of Black people pre- slavery.

One of the goals of this event is “filling in the knowledge gap,” Grant-Hall said.

The three artists in the coming exhibit don’t just look at one period of time, Grant-Hall said. “They look at the continuum of the Black experience,” she said. They look not just at the past but at the present and future.

The artists address themes of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history, identity, culture, intersectionality and activism from the perspectives of contemporary African Canadians. The works incorporate elements of symbolism and ancestry through photography, sculpture and dance.

The three artists in this exhibit are: Ekow Nimako, Adeyemi Adegbesan and Coco Collective. Ekow Nimako has been making art with Lego his entire life. This Toronto-based artist builds sculptures out of black Lego. He began when he was four and his art later took root in the sculpture studios of York University, evolving over the years into a unique contemporary art practice. Along with his uniquely fluid building style, keen attention to form, and content deeply rooted in other-worldly Black narratives, Nimako’s artwork transcends the iconic Lego bricks to reach new heights of materiality and substance.

Nimako’s work is rooted in pre-colonialism but it’s futuristic, Grant-Hall said.

“It builds a legacy of blackness,” she said. The Lego is “pretty phenomenal.”

The second artist Adeyemi Adegbesan is a Toronto-based photographic artist whose practice aims to examine the intersectionality of Black identity. His art reflects on Blackness through pre-colonial – colonial --present day and future timelines, across regions, religions, varying levels of income, and political lines; Adegbesan interrogates the dichotomy of the richness of Black experiences with the imposed societal homogeneity of 'Blackness.' Through his work, Adegbesan pulls from these varying elements to create Afro-futuristic portraits that embody history, future, and culture.

The third artist Coco Collective  is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary group of intergenerational artists who specialize in African and Caribbean arts. Coco Collective socially responds to serve priority groups, specifically addressing a lack of culturally relevant programming in specific neighbourhoods and regions. This group consists of professional artists of colour who teach diverse, artistic practices.

The free, multi-media exhibition: The Heart of Africa. Retracing our history runs Wednesday, Jan. 29 to Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Serpa and Community Galleries Newmarket Old Town Hall (460 Botsford St.)

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