Left: Donna and Marianne Skanks in newspaper clipping, c. 1963. Ola Skanks Private Collection, Dance Collection Danse. Right: Justine A. Chambers, Untitled c. 1996 at Debbie Wilson's studio on Richmond St. West, Toronto. Photographer unknown.
It's About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900 – 1970 and Now
Otoniya J. Okot Bitek
Justine A. Chambers
Guest curated by Seika Boye
Wednesday, October 12, 5–7PM
October 13 – December 9, 2022
Audain Gallery and Teck Gallery
It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900 – 1970 and Now illuminates the largely undocumented dance history of Canada’s Black population before 1970, with responses from contemporary performing, literary and visual artists reflecting on how the archival resonates in this moment. Guest curated by Seika Boye, PhD, this archival exhibition exposes the representation of Blackness on Canadian stages, as well as audience and media reception of Black performance in Canada during this era. It’s About Time also explores legislation of leisure culture, dance lessons and the role of social dances at mid-century. Featured are individual dance artists such as Leonard Gibson, Ola Skanks, Ethel Bruneau, Joey Hollingsworth, and Kathryn Brown. This is the fifth presentation of the archival materials in It’s About Time, and includes new commissions from dance artist Justine A. Chambers, visual artist Ceilidh Munroe, poet and scholar Otoniya J. Okot Bitek, with a graphic response by Adriana Contreras.
It’s About Time was originally commissioned by Dance Collection Danse (2018) and further developed in partnership with The Mitchell Art Gallery (2020). Partners: SFU School of Contemporary Arts; Mitchell Art Gallery; MacEwan University; Dance Collection Danse Gallery.
Seika Boye is a scholar, writer, educator, and artist whose practices revolve around dance and movement. She is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Institute for Dance Studies at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto. Seika curated the archival exhibition It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900–1970 and co-curated Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario. Her publications have appeared in numerous academic journals and magazines, and she was an Artist-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario (2018). She was the Toronto District School Board’s African Heritage Educators’ Network Arts Honoree (2019) and in 2020 was the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Heritage Trust Award for her work on Into the Light.
Otoniya J. Okot Bitek is a poet. Her 100 Days (University of Alberta 2016), a book of poetry that reflects on the meaning of memory two decades after the Rwanda genocide, was nominated for several writing prizes including the 2017 BC Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Alberta Book Awards and the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the 2017 IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. A is for Acholi (Wolsak and Wynn 2022), a new collection of poetry, is her most recent publication. Okot Bitek is an assistant professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Justine A. Chambers is a choreographer, dancer and educator living and working on the traditional and ancestral Coast Salish territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ. Her movement-based practice considers how choreography can be an empathic practice rooted in collaborative creation, close observation, and the body as a site of a cumulative embodied archive. She is Max Tyler-Hite’s mother.
Adriana Contreras is an Interdisciplinary Artist, bilingual Graphic Recorder and Illustrator (English and Spanish), born in Bogotá, Colombia, living and working with respect and gratitude on the unceded, traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ First Nations. Artistic expression has always been a central part of Adriana's life but became an essential tool for navigating the world as a first-generation immigrant. Her migration journey profoundly informs her work and commitment to social justice at a local and global level. Adriana completed her BFA at SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts in 2006 and has worked at numerous local Arts organizations for over the past 20 years.
Ceilidh Munroe is a Jamaican-Canadian artist living and working on the unceeded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ Nations. She works primarily in print media with a focus in relief and monotype printing, although this does not exclude experiments with other media. She typically engages with print media in unusual and thoughtful ways, taking the printing process away from paper and using it to explore other methods of production. Her work often engages with the architecture of its surroundings, drawing closely on the contexts in which it is presented. Her practice is partnered with a passion for fine arts education that manifests itself in developing workshops, writing, facilitating discussion, leading tours and more.
Wednesday, October 12, 5 - 7pm
Spotlight Presentations: Miss Coco Murray and Emilie Jabouin
Friday, October 14, 2pm
Tour: Seika Boye and Ceilidh Munroe
Friday, October 14, 5pm
Talk: Otoniya J. Okot Bitek in conversation with Lyse Lemieux and Kimberly Phillips
Sunday, October 23, 2pm
The Bernard Reading Circle with Ogheneofegor Obuwoma and Moroti Soji-George
Thursday, November 24, 12 - 1:30pm
Performance: Justine A. Chambers
Friday, December 2, 7pm
Additional public programming includes community responses to the exhibition from dance artist Isaac Gasangwa, spoken word artist Teeanna Munro, and Spotlight Presentations by dance artists and scholars, Miss Coco Murray and Emilie Jabouin.
Additional support has been provided by:
ONTARIO ARTS FOUNDATION
ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL
CANADA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS
TORONTO ARTS COUNCIL
Special thanks to Fine Art Framing