Paintings and poetry and film—oh my!

Did you know, in 1993, the Ontario Black History Society petitioned for Ontario to proclaim February as Black History Month? And, by 1995, Black History Month became officially recognized throughout Canada!

Now, almost 30 years later, IGNITE wants to celebrate and acknowledge the countless accomplishments of Black communities in Canada through one of our favourite avenues: art!

So, if you’re feeling a hunger to dive into creative works this February, look no further. We’ve got all kinds of artwork, so take your pick! When was the last time you picked up a good book or discovered your new favourite artist?

Here’s our compilation of wonderous works of art to immerse yourself in this Black History Month. 

Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name (1982) — Audre Lorde

Woman looking to the right with a second deconstructed face looking left against a red sun and city background.

Audre Lorde was an American feminist, writer and poet. Her work often explores the nuances of being Black, and a lesbian, and a mother and—later—a person with cancer, living in New York City in the mid-20th century. Her focus on the way her various identities impacted her—and one another—was foundational to the theory Kimberlé Crenshaw coined “intersectionality.

Zami: A New Spelling Of MyName chronicles Lorde’s childhood in Harlem to her coming of age and explores the evolution of her sexuality and self-awareness. 

From 1991 until her passing the following year, Lorde was New York state’s poet laureate. Her other notable works include Cables to Rage (1970) and The Black Unicorn (1978).

Don’t Be A Sucker (2021) — Arrington Porter

Arrington Porter is an African-American visual artist and musician. Porter pursued art in college where he says he fell “in love with oil painting.” 

His visual art style is a blend of traditional realism and surrealism. Don’t Be A Sucker is a surrealist painting with an intriguing title and subject matter. It certainly draws the eye—as does his work Small Things To A Giant, which depicts a big green teddy bear strutting down the street! 

Moreover, Porter has stated that he pulls a lot of his painting inspiration from music. He recently released his Still Life EP in December 2021. 

The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (2002) — Djanet Sears

Woman looking down sullenly and pulling back her hair with yellow torn paper covering the chest downwards.

Djanet Sears is a well-established figure in Toronto’s Black theatre scene. The Canadian playwright and director’s work discusses intersecting identities such as race and gender. Set in a historical town in modern Ontario, The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God introduces Dr. Rainey Baldwin-Johnson, who is struggling with the loss of her daughter and her marriage.

Notably, Sears’ other work includes Afrika Solo (2011) and Harlem Duet (1998). Furthermore, Sears is a founding member of the Obsidian Theatre, which is dedicated to the exploration and production of Black voices. 

Hardwood (2005) — Hubert Davis

Hubert Davis is a Canadian filmmaker who was nominated for an Emmy for his directorial debut in Hardwood. The documentary is about Davis’ father, former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis. Thus, it explores Davis’ family history and his parents’ interracial relationship in the 1960s.

On top of his Emmy nomination, Davis is the first Black Canadian to be nominated for an Oscar—also for Hardwood. His other works include Giants of Africa (2016), a documentary about the use of basketball to empower African youth, and Boys Don’t Cry (2019), about how the “boys will be boys” mentality influences the perception of masculinity from youth to adolescence. 

Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) — Nalo Hopkins

Apocalyptic Toronto cityscape with floating Afro-Caribbean masks and surrealistic fading faces.

Fancy a dystopian take on a familiar city? We have a story filled with mystery and heroism!

Brown Girl in the Ring takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting of downtown Toronto (yes, Toronto!). In brief, protagonist Ti-Jeanne must navigate motherhood and her family’s history in this daring adventure.

Nalo Hopkins is a Jamaican-born Canadian science fiction writer. Similar to Brown Girl in the Ring, her other work draws on Afro-Caribbean culture with elements of folklore and magical realism. As a matter of fact, the novel won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest and Hopkinson won the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (among many others)! 

A song for the season of slipping away (2021) — Casiah Cagan

Casiah Cagan is a fourth-year student in the Honours Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology at UofGH. She is also a writer and poet; and A song for the season of slipping away is something every student can attest to in tough times. Truthfully, the weight of expectations and bleak exhaustion is beautifully illustrated in a raw and realistic manner. 

Much of Cagan’s work is inspired by her own thoughts and feelings but remoulded. She wanted to “intensify these feelings [of overwhelm and exhaustion] by creating a character who could illustrate…slipping away into a negative headspace.”

Furthermore, Cagan’s other poems are largely diverse in subject matter. Close your eyes and you’ll be able to imagine every detail she describes. In essence, from romantic longing to that feeling of strength you get when you decide not to accept an apology, there is something for everyone.

We recommend I don’t accept your closure (2021)read it and be at peace.

Bridges (2020) — Jesse Ryan

This alumnus has accomplished a lot since his Bachelor of Music at Humber College. Ever heard of Caribbean Jazz?

Jesse Ryan is a Trinidadian-born saxophonist, composer and producer. His debut album Bridges is an innovative sound you’ll want to dance to. (It has rhythmeven if you don’t!)

His work combines jazz and Afro-Caribbean tradition. And, Ryan has worked with some of Toronto’s finest musicians includingNick Morgan and Pat LaBarbera.

He states, “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to make music in such a great city, and contribute my voice and unique Caribbean perspective to the vast multicultural landscape that is Canadian music.” Not to mention, Ryan also won the 2020 Toronto Art Foundation Emerging Jazz Artist Award.

Furthermore, Ryan is also a visual artist and the CEO of FWÉ Culture: an umbrella for Ryan’s musical and creative projects and services. You’ll be able to catch one of his shows in Toronto!

Et La Lumière Fut (2021) — Moridja Kitenge Banza

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If you’re hoping to view some art in person, you’re in luck!

You can see Et La Lumière Fut (And There Was Light) at the AGO until November 2022 and enjoy a stroll through 13 paintings from Moridja Kitenge Banza’s Christ Patocrantor series. Banza’s works reflect on biography, colonial histories, art making and the creation of new narratives. Of course, each piece is uniquely wonderful; Christ Patocrator no. 19 (2021) is acrylic and gold leaf on wood. 

Banza was born in the Dominican Republic of Congo and is a Montréal artist. Because of this, his works deal with identity and migration as a member of the African diaspora.

We’ve come to the end of our list!

IGNITE hopes you’ll find something that inspires you and satisfies your craving for art! After all, there are virtually endless works of art to discover and appreciate this Black History Month and all year round.

Share your favourite artworks and artists with us by tagging @shareignite on Instagram and Twitter. And check out the BASE for resources, events and volunteer opportunities this Black History Month.

So much wonderful talent can be found in our Toronto community. Check out your peers’ favourite local places for a meal.

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