Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834? The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves. In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.
This woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad. But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history.
A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife
A Black and White Religion
Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours, a century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time. – Louis Riel
This quote in the shape of a wheel is displayed as a touchstone at the heart of a groundbreaking exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. Louis Riel who spoke the words that make up the wheel design was a Metis leader who fought to preserve Metis culture and land rights. He was accused of high treason by Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald, convicted and hung.
Entrance to the Every. Now. Then. exhibit -Art Gallery of Ontario
This year Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. The Art Gallery of Ontario wanted to give voice to groups like the Metis in Canada who might feel they have little to celebrate. The exhibit Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood gives Metis, First Nations, black, Asian, transgender and other marginalized Canadians a place to tell their story.
Metis men with a Red River Cart, a mode of transportation for the Canadian prairies invented by the Metis. Could this be the kind of wheel Louis Riel was envisioning when he talked about the spokes in the wheel of time?
I spent an enthralling afternoon in Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood and will be doing blog posts about what I saw and learned in the coming weeks. One hopes the exhibit and others like it will help to speed up Riel’s one wheel spoke forward a century pace towards greater inclusion and equality for all Canadians.
A Controversial Statue
Treaty One Land
Manitoba is Metis