PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JEREMY VYN / SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
Wilfrid Laurier University and Martin Luther University College are currently hosting the art exhibition, “Unmasking, Breathing, Moving Forward”, both online and in-person at the Kanata Centre in Waterloo.
The exhibition features pieces from Black, Indigenous and racialized artists as they respond to their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer insight into moving forward.
The exhibition is available free online for students that are associated with either Wilfrid Laurier University campus and the surrounding community. It will run both in-person and online from Feb.1 until April 22.
Unmasking, Breathing, Moving Forward features 20 artists from the Waterloo Region and beyond, including three young artists from Six Nations, Ashley Catrysse, ‘Sendhegeyat’ Thomas Anderson, and Steve (Haven) Johnson.
These artists provided pieces in a wide variety of mediums that celebrate Black, Indigenous and other racialized cultures.
The exhibition will also be hosting an opening ceremony in conjunction with Art and Vespers, the Katana Centre’s annual jazz service. This event will include presentations by artists featured in the exhibition. The event will be held via zoom on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Artists also included Wilfrid Laurier alumni Elizabeth Best, who created a beaded, deconstructed version of the medicine wheel.
In a description of the piece, Best spoke about the theme of the exhibition.
“The question of how to move forward after years of upheaval and unrest weighs on my mind every day. A year of isolation gave me the opportunity to examine my own spirituality and healing,” said Best.
“Life during the pandemic has been challenging for everyone,” said Debbie Lou Ludolph, the artistic director of the Kanata Centre. “However, this period has clearly unveiled the harsh realities of oppression and racism. The exhibit invites us to reflect on equity and justice in a post-pandemic world.”
Pieces include original HBC wool jackets embellished with beaded SmallPox, Tuberculosis, and Mercury Atom medallions created by Keitha “Biizindam” Keeshig-Tobias and Tanya Bruce; a photo collection which celebrates Black hair and the art of hair braiding by Omran Adushe; Songs of Freedom by Ken Daley which speaks on the power of music and song in the Black community.
The exhibition and its artist not only respond to the pandemic itself but also to events that happened to their communities during this time.
Some of these events include the uncovering of remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the cover-up of the Saskatoon Starlight Tours reentering the public consciousness and fears of climate change.
“It [the exhibition] prompts the following question: As we unmask, breathe unencumbered, and lead from our places of influence, how do we remain committed to change that allows all people and the planet to flourish?” Ludolph said.
“Come. Spend time with the art. It will not only honour the artists, but stir your imagination and warm your heart to the possibilities of moving forward together.”
The exhibition can be viewed online at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lutherwaterloo/albums/72177720296333918, and registration for the Art and Vespers event can be found at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYodO6trjIiHtYO-y95LmxoIrC1_l6LWjUj.
The exhibition can be viewed in person at 75 University Ave W, Waterloo, Ont.