So a couple of weeks ago, I went to my friend Camille Turner’s new art-installation/happening. It was really cool! Her work, both artistically and academically (:-) she’s also one of my colleagues in Ph.D Land), is all about trying to unearth Black histories that have been buried by the White settler enterprise, and reinsert them into our narratives of what Canada is. Her stuff’s very much part of what inspired me to get started!
Anyway, this piece, called “The Afronaughts Have Landed”, explores slavery in Canada. It imagines that the Afronaughts – the people/beings who, in ancient times, shared wisdom from the Sirius star-system with the Dogon people (of what is now Mali) – have come back to help because they’ve seen the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into here. And they’ve unearthed evidence of slavery. So the Afronaughts (Camille and her fellow performers) stood silently around us while we, the audience, sat at a table and looked at their discoveries – old adds for or about slaves from newspapers from what was then Upper and Lower Canada (present-day Ontario and Quebec), as well as from the Maritimes (especially present-day Nova Scotia). And while we did this, a recording played of a voice (it sounded like text-to-speech) reading out these adds along with other information about Canadian slavery. It was really fascinating! Though, also, pretty dreadful. I didn’t even know we’d had slavery in Canada! 😦 They tend to neglect that part in our history classes, focussing instead on our heroic role as destination of the Underground Railroad. But we were slave-owners too, of both Black/African and Aboriginal slaves according to Camille’s research! And this was so for both English and French Canada.
Anyway, it was a really cool piece! I can’t wait to experience her next work! As I said, Camille’s stuff’s been a huge inspiration for my own. I love the way she uses art to address politics, and to open up issues people would like not to talk about! You can check out more of her awesome work at her website. 🙂 Very awesome!