The Galerie Mile-End Ame Art hosted an intimate vernissage for “Symbols of Resistance”. The art exhibition, featuring the work of eight black Montreal-based artists opens its doors in February as a celebration of Black History Month. Artists, creators, filmmakers, photographers, painters and activists have come together to share their stories and speak their minds through their artwork.
The audience could feel the passion in the artists’ voices when they spoke about their work. The art they present carries far more meaning than just pleasing the eye. Each piece is a depiction of their personal stories and battles as a black community adapting to a foreign environment. I have chosen to detail the work of three artists to convey the common ideology of the present Black community.
Most Montrealers who have immigrated understand the struggle of leaving their home for a new one and having to rebuild their lives in our multicultural society. Sika Valmé, musician and artist, tells her journey of immigrating to Canada through her surrealist illustrations on canvas as she tried to redefine the meaning of home and family.
Other artists focused on their cultural heritage and how it is still present in their everyday lives. Aïssatou Diallo showed a series of digital drawings showing the importance of passing down traditions and preserving the African tribal culture. The women in her illustrations are dressed in traditional outfits with bold and colorful prints; their hair is coiffed the way Diallo recalls having her hair styled as a young girl. One of her illustrations, titled “The Crown’’, is a portrait of a young Black woman wearing handmade African earrings and a Fulani hairstyle representing power and strength. Diallo aims to empower women and encourage them to stand in unity. “They are watching each other’s back’’, she said, referring to her drawing titled ‘’Sisterhood’’, where two young women are hugging, each looking over the other’s shoulder.
Glowzi, one of many, addressed the issue of the Black community’s representation in the media. Her series titled “Reclaiming my time space’’ cares to share that it isn’t only those who appear in the media who matter. She describes her work as a portrayal of ‘’Black people whose experiences are between Trayvon Martin’s and Beyoncé’s’’. In other words, it isn’t only those who live in either extreme situation and who are represented in the media who matter. Glowzi is an advocate for the ordinary people. One of her acrylic painting is an auto portrait on which she added white paint, tracing abstract features of a face as a metaphor for her ‘’blackness [being] filtered through white media’’.
Meghan Gagliardi, one of the organizers of the event, said that the importance of this exhibition lies in the fact that the artwork tells “specific and far-reaching stories that a lot of people can relate to”.
Annick MF, her co-host, mentioned that the entire project was executed within fifteen weeks. They both provided the necessary support for the artists whether it be a workshop space, a studio, access to printing or financial aid. Everyone who participated in the realization of this event – artists, organizers or sponsors – wants to push the message that it isn’t norms, common beliefs and the media who define people; it’s the people themselves who define their own identities.
The exhibition showcases a variety of artistic styles and skill sets that allow all the artists’ narratives to create one powerful message. They are hoping to inspire an honest and realistic representation of the Black community in a city where they are one of many minorities. During this entire month, do take the opportunity to drop by the gallery and see what these artists have to say about their portrayal in the media culture.