We are a collaborative group of artists and patrons committed to increasing the visibility of Black visual artists in the National Capital Region. Our goal is to provide ongoing mentoring, networking, exhibition, and professional development opportunities to our members.
What does "home" mean to you? As a concept and a place, it means different things to different people. Is home where we live, or where we're from? When we think of it in terms of a physical space, home is where we live, sleep, eat and love. Under the best circumstances, it is an emotionally and physically safe place. Alternatively, when we “feel at home”, it may be less about the place or building itself and more about having a sense of belonging, a feeling of community. In this sense, home combines both the intimacy of our inner worlds and the more visible outer spaces we occupy.
How can our ability to access and keep a home change and evolve over time? What influences this? While there are many factors, the exhibit explores and depicts what it looks like to be disrupted or removed from your home - the struggle to access safe and affordable housing, of losing a home due to an eviction or of living through an occupation - and of rebuilding a new life, a community, a home after (re)settling in a new country.
The quote, "home is an imaginary place," reminds us that much of how we think about home exists in our minds. Firmly planted in our imagination are ideas and sentiments that inform what it means to be at home. In these ideas and sentiments, whose homes are visible and valued and whose are invisible and devalued or neglected? What would it mean to create a city where all residents have a truly safe and stable home?
This exhibition includes professional, emerging, and community artists based in Ottawa. In viewing this exhibition, we invite you to think about the spaces you call home.
Curated by Fiona Barbaro Sant (Co-Chair Arts and Culture Committee of the Lowertown Community Association), Kendra Hughes (Co-Chair Arts and Culture Committee of the Lowertown Community Association) and Monique Fuller (Ottawa Black Art Kollective). The exhibit was made possible with funding from Ottawa Markets.
“Chinatown Lights Up” and “A Safe Place to Land,” are two paintings that call up the theme of “Home” to me, both in the physical and spiritual sense. I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by my family and my community. These two pieces bring to life what it means for me to meaningfully occupy space as an immigrant mother and as an Asian woman living in Canada. For instance, during the pandemic it was clear to me that Asian identity was being negatively associated with COVID, and this served to further perpetuate stereotypes. Asian businesses and communities found themselves falling apart instead of economically thriving. “Chinatown Lights Up” positively features the diverse Ottawa community coming out to support Asian culture and delighting in delicious food and entertainment. It was my hope that this painting would inspire others to be proud of their Asian identity while also celebrating the advantages that come from living in a multicultural city. Ottawa is home to cultures and this is where I believe we can all thrive and grow.
Likewise, Home is also where you are loved unconditionally. In the painting “A Safe Place to Land,” I painted a mother cradling her kids underwater, while the unpredictable currents move with time. Water is an important feature in my artistic practice, because it represents my boat departure from Vietnam, healing through trauma, and new beginnings. In my painting, I hope to depict the selfless beauty of motherhood in spiritually creating a home for kids to thrive, and to offer a glimpse into the struggle of being lost at sea.
Whether it be fleeing a communist takeover of a country, or desperately finding the mental strength to pull through for your family; immigrant women face unique challenges, such as breaking systemic barriers like financial independence and managing conflicting social norms. Navigating these invisible forces can be difficult especially during a pandemic.
These two acrylic paintings investigate the theme “Home” through an Asian Canadian lens, applying a contrast between warm and cold tones combined with fluid figure work. It is my home that these paintings animate a playful world where light-heartedness rules even during difficult times, and where the magic of art can illuminate a path forward.
This installation began with a walk. A journey along a path that began through open farms, stunning forests and breathtaking vistas, when suddenly it turned into a treacherous, narrow, root laden pathway that went directly up a mountain. It was emotionally and physically exhausting and every step had to be negotiated.
This experience and the roots I encountered became a metaphor about human struggle. I began to experiment with making my own 'roots' – literally from my personal artistic practice by using past works on painted canvas. These three-dimensional sculptural roots represent those I experienced on my walk. What started out as a personal statement began to transform into something much larger, with far more importance.
The 'roots' began to signify the duality or polarity within today's society on the critical issue of migration. Each 'root' aims to be read as something beautiful – much like the numerous cultures that make up humanity – as each one contrasts, challenges and connects with the other.
Beyond and in addition to the installation, the ‘roots’ were taken out of the studio and photographed in different natural settings and at various locations. In this way they become a part of our present and historical shared experience.
Every day we are confronted with the plight of migrants who struggle to find their place in the world away from war, hunger, poverty and climate related circumstances. It was important to me to take the 'roots' to the end of Roxham Road in Quebec where many undocumented migrants are presently seeking asylum, while risking detention or deportation as they desperately strive to find a safer and better life for themselves and their families.
In contrast, photographing the 'roots' at Pier 21 in Halifax is a reminder of the over 1.5 million immigrants who were welcomed into Canada from 1928 until 1971, many of whom are our ancestors.
The 'roots' are made from my re-purposed paintings and each represent a memory of a certain time and place in my artistic practice; I can easily identify each of them in every 'root'. By cutting up my paintings and using them as a material, I am expressing a symbolic and practical gesture in support of environmental action.
Around each organically-made 'root' or object, the paintings have been cut into strips and tightly wound in an evenly spaced and controlled manner or are wrapped randomly, crisscrossing one on top of another. Either way, the strips denote a feeling and the way forward – of moving forward together to embrace diversity and inclusion in our present socio-political situation around the recognition and acceptance of global migration.
Our journey in life not only depends on how we feel within ourselves but how we are bound together in relationships with each other as we collectively strive to find a way forward.
These artworks honour those people who are without a home, especially those who live in Lowertown. As a resident of Lowertown I am well aware of the predicament of people experiencing homelessness and how the pandemic has exacerbated an already tragic situation. This work is a call for action, a reminder, and a prayer. The characters depicted in these works carry healing plants such as ginger and citronella. As a Colombian born artist that has lived in different places in the world, I have learned the power we hold to maintaining our own health with plant-based remedies. Ginger helps fight infection and inflammation and citronella helps heal wounds as it is an antifungal plant. The plants in these arworks convey healing as a symbol of hope for self-improvement and well-being. In my neighbourhood I have observed how some of the people experiencing homelessness carry small bags with cigarettes that to me represent a personal offering.
I beg of you, let’s get together and find long lasting solutions to support mental and physical health; education to mend broken lives; and offer decent permanent housing.
I Am From Uzbekistan is an illustrated storytelling project that uses simple cartoon-style drawings, humour and compassion to touch on issues of diversity and inclusion in the modern “global” society.
This project is my artistic response to discrimination and prejudice I have been facing living and travelling abroad. Very sadly, too often an “I am from Uzbekistan” statement will raise inappropriate questions and remarks and bring negative associations. In the world, where the bias of today's media has such a profound effect on how some nations/ethnicities/religions are treated, I want to inspire everyone to replace the fear of the unknown with genuine curiosity and encourage learning about the world and its cultures through "real people's” stories.
In this illustrated project - an introduction to my home country told from the first person, I invite people to learn about the most beautiful and surprising sides of Uzbekistan. Together with the commentary, the illustrations form a series of mini-stories that touch on different aspects of Uzbek history and culture and address the actual questions people ask me about Uzbekistan. Even though this work was in a way inspired by my negative experiences, I approach this project using the power of humour and playfulness inviting the viewer on a joyful journey in time and space to the heart of Central Asia.
Dasturxon - If you ever visit Uzbekistan, everyone you meet will invite you “to have tea” in their home, and you really should never say no. We love inviting new friends to our hearts and our homes, and we make sure one doesn’t leave without a good tea and proper taste of “dastarkhan” — the Central Asian dining ritual of enjoying abundant culinary pleasures in the company of friends and family. Dastarkhan is not dastarkhan without green tea, “plov”, “non”, fresh seasonal fruits and savoury sweets. It is so much more than tea: Uzbek “tea” is spiced with friendship, served with warm smiles, and packed with good memories.
Fruits - Uzbekistan is a unique country that is far away from any ocean. Labeled “double-land-locked” by geography books, it is indeed at least two countries away from any sea in all four directions. This distinct climate condition makes for extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year, and even throughout the day. It is due to this temperature difference that our fruits are incredibly sweet and delicious. It is here that you will try melons with a taste and fragrance that you will never be able to forget!
Non - When in Uzbekistan, don’t miss trying “non” — a divine miracle of crisp odorous flesh of yeast with crumbs of flavourful sesame. It is baked in special clay ovens — tandir — which are integral to making it. Since ancient times, Uzbek bread was cooked in a round shape, which had a hidden meaning. The circular disk symbolized the sun, because without bread, as well as without the sun, there is no life on earth.
I approach this project using the power of humour and playfulness inviting the viewer on a joyful journey in time and space to the heart of Central Asia.