Toronto : Dis/Mantle, an art exhibit inspired by the efforts of Black abolitionists, is reimagining Spadina Museum through an Afrofuturism narrative. The show which opened on August 5 will be on view until Saturday, December 31. The group show includes soundscapes, ceramics and visual art by Canadian artists from the Afro Caribbean diaspora. Entry is free.
At a media preview on August 4 remarks were made by Cheryl Blackman, Interim General Manager, Economic Development & Culture, City of Toronto; John Wiggins, Vice President, Organizational Culture and Inclusion, Toronto Raptors; and Gordon Shadrach, lead artist, Dis/Mantle.
Dis/Mantle is the newest installation of the award-winning Awakenings Program – a series of art projects created within Toronto History Museums by Black, Indigenous, artists of colour and the 2SLGBTQ+ community, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism and anti-racism.
Dis/Mantle uses an Afrofuturism narrative: where Mrs. Louisa PipkinPipkin is now the homeowner and the house is a safe haven for those seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad. There is also an iconic portrait of Louisa Pipkin and a series of new portraits of members of the Black community by lead artist Gordon Shadrach.
Draped in the bloodlines of ancestry, Mrs. Pipkin’s Manor dismantles the world as you see it once you step inside. Louisa Pipkin was a freedom seeker, who escaped enslavement in the United States and came to Canada where she worked as a laundress in the 1870s for the Austin family, the founders of the Dominion Bank of Canada and the homeowners of Spadina. Dis/Mantle is inspired by the real Mrs. Pipkin and the efforts of Black abolitionists.
Spadina Museum reflects the colonization of Indigenous lands by Europeans like many other historic structures in North America. The stories of those who had their land taken from them are often erased in the retelling of the historic events that celebrate the development of colonization throughout Canada. The stories of the African enslaved peoples (and diaspora) who were instrumental in the economic development and construction of the colonies have systematically been erased or diminished by those who control the historic narratives.
Since March, artist-on-location Gordon Shadrach has transformed a room on the third floor of Spadina Museum into a residency studio. Shadrach has re-imagined the museum using the Afrofuturism narrative.
Through the medium of portraiture, Shadrach seeks to disrupt the colonial constrictions by inviting viewers to reflect upon the depiction of Black people in art and culture. The time at Spadina Museum has also allowed Gordon to create a series of new portraits of members of the Black community which all speak to strength and resiliency.
The light and airy room in which Gordon worked overlooks the museum garden which contains sweeping lawns, a kitchen garden and an orchard. The healing and restorative power of nature has formed inspiration for a series of paintings featured in the exhibition, from the apple trees in the orchard to the careful process of planting seeds in the kitchen garden.
More information is available on the City’s Dis/Mantle webpage: www.toronto.ca/DisMantle. The event’s social media tags are #DisMantle and #Awakenings.