Come celebrate the installation the Black Canadians (after Cooke) by Deanna Bowen on Emancipation Day
The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) will officially inaugurate the large-scale installation The Black Canadians (after Cooke), by Deanna Bowen, on Emancipation Day, Tuesday, August 1st. The public is invited to join in the celebration, starting at 5 p.m. EST outside on its Plaza, to learn more about the installation with the Gallery’s interpreters before attending a one-hour conversation with Deanna, hosted by the Gallery’s Director of Curatorial Initiatives and Curator of the artwork, Jonathan Shaughnessy, at 5:30 p.m. EST in the Auditorium. Admission is free. The conversation will be followed by the signing of the artist’s most recent book, titled Deanna Bowen, co-published by Steidl and the Scotiabank Photography Award and on sale at the Gallery’s Boutique.
The installation will adorn the NGC’s South façade until fall 2024. It is the second commission in a series of three major photographic works of the Gallery’s Leading with Women initiative, presented with the support of the Scotiabank Photography Program at the National Gallery of Canada. The Black Canadians (after Cooke) is also the first work by Deanna Bowen to enter the National Gallery of Canada’s collection.
Central to Bowen’s practice is an examination of her family’s stories and their connections to their lived experiences in Canada and the United States. The title for Bowen’s work references a Maclean’s magazine article “The Black Canadian” written in 1911 by Britton B. Cooke who argues against African American migration to Canada.
The visual narrative of The Black Canadians (after Cooke) draws its imagery from a range of sources including public archives in Canada and the United States, as well as scans of materials collected by Bowen over the course of her research. The work’s chronology spans some 150 years of history and reflects on Canada’s place in a global framework of colonialism and the lived realities faced by Bowen’s family and that of many Black, Indigenous and racially marginalized peoples who call Canada home.
“This incredible artwork helps us see that multiple—and even conflicting—truths are possible at the same time. In learning about these truths, we can gain a better understanding of the past—and address similar questions about the present,” said Jonathan Shaughnessy, Director of Curatorial Initiatives, NGC, and Curator of the installation. We recognized that difficult, but necessary, conversations on discrimination in North America over the centuries can be challenging. To support these conversations, we invited a range of community leaders to offer their perspective on this installation.”
The Black Canadians (after Cooke) continues the important work of reckoning embarked by the Gallery to foster a dialogue around the story of Canada and Canadian art in recognition of the many voices historically marginalized on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, class, disabilities and otherwise.
“There are so many perspectives that remain to be told and, most importantly in our context, visualized. Bowen’s project asks how dominant narratives might be unsettled by excavating the records, realities and experiences of those excluded from full participation in the freedoms of citizenship afforded by the promise of being Canadian,” added Shaughnessy.
“What I’m doing is contextualizing my family’s experience…They have been wronged historically, and so this is an opportunity to right them in a very real, very public way,” said Deanna Bowen.
The Black Canadians (after Cooke) aims to strengthen community connections through transformative art experiences. Community leaders Sarah Onyango, Board member, Black History Ottawa; David Sachs, Community Relations Specialist, Jewish Federation of Ottawa; and Kahente Horn-Miller, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University are featured in a video with Bowen that accompanies the installation. Visitors can watch it on their personal devices after scanning a QR code or on a monitor in the Gallery’s main entrance as well as at gallery.ca.
In the event of inclement weather, the inaugural event will begin with the talk at 5:30 p.m. EST in the Gallery’s Auditorium.
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About the National Gallery of Canada
Ankosé: Everything is Connected | Tout est relié
The NGC is dedicated to amplifying voices through art and extending the reach and breadth of its collection, exhibitions program, and public activities to represent all Canadians, while centring Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Ankosé—an Anishinaabemowin word that means “everything is connected”—reflects the Gallery’s mission to create dynamic experiences that open hearts and minds, and allow for new ways of seeing ourselves, one another, and our diverse histories, through the visual arts. The NGC is home to a rich contemporary Indigenous international art collection, as well as important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian and European art from the 14th to the 21st century. Founded in 1880, the NGC has played a key role in Canadian culture for more than 140 years.
About the Scotiabank Photography Program at the NGC
The Scotiabank Photography Program at the National Gallery of Canada embraces digital content creation, education, exhibitions, the NGC initiatives Leading with Women, and Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award. The National Gallery of Canada’s photography collection is one of the world’s most comprehensive holdings of photographs and related materials. It represents the entire history of the medium, revealing and reinterpreting the most important stories of our past, present and future.
About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada in fulfilling its mandate. By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy empowers the Gallery to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes present and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To learn more about the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, visit ngcfoundation.ca.