“I want you to know that I am hiding something from you / since what I might be is uncontainable” is an exploration of the politics of visibility as it relates to the artist's own body and lived experience. The first room calls into question the objectivity of perception, instead highlighting the manner in which one’s positionality in society shapes what is seen and unseen. Here, the artist resists attempts to be known and seen in favour of a politics of refusal. Opacity and transparency are featured intermittently, in materials that at times obfuscate and at other times transform to reveal a glimpse into a new way of seeing and being that has yet to be understood – even by the artist.
The second room takes up where the first leaves off, exploring the effects of racialized perception – the projection of race onto the body – on the lived experience of the embodied subject. Embracing the notion of paradox, “since what I might be is uncontainable” hints at the contradictions of race as a lived reality; the process of racialization – in many ways an act of naming – gives rise to both violence on the basis of difference and a sense of kinship predicated on shared experiences. These contrasting realities are all mediated through the body, which becomes the center of attention in the installation.
Both rooms call into being the figure of Anansi the spider – a trickster God in Ashanti (Ghana) folklore – as a way of imagining ways of being that go beyond dichotomy. As a figure that floats between the world of the Gods and that of mankind, the trickster offers a model of how to navigate the space in-between fixed identities and seemingly paradoxical realities. Rather than either/or, the trickster offers slippage and concomitance: between moments of agency and vulnerability; violence and protection; hypervisibility and invisibility; absence and presence. To be a trickster is to be uncontainable, unknowable, and, potentially and free to create oneself a new each day.
Photo credit: Justin Wonnacott and Kristina Corre.
Photocredit: Vladim Villain
Public programming was organized to accompany the exhibition, including a black womxn-only workshop and an artist talk:
From Anansi to Aunt Nancy: Folklore and Storytelling in the Diaspora
Inspired by the exhibition, which uses the figure of Anansi, the trickster spider, as a way of questioning representations of Blackness, the workshop, “From Anansi to Aunt Nancy: Folklore and Storytelling in the Diaspora,” explored the meaning and significance of the figure of the trickster and the importance of storytelling both on the African continent and in the diaspora.
The workshop began with a performance by Rosy Dougé-Charles, whose art practice aims to put Black women at the center of our own stories and our shared histories. It was then followed by a presentation by Mosa McNeilly, a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist, who works with the trickster archetype in her performance practice, specifically the figure of Esú, one of the pantheon of Orisás, or deities, from the Yoruba tradition originating in Nigeria. Mosa discussed the history of this figure and its relationship to the Middle Passage (a term used to name the journey made by slave ships across the Atlantic ocean). Workshop participants were then invited to reflect on and share folk-stories from their childhood and/or invent new stories for themselves, during an interactive activity led by Ayan Tani, Manager of Connections & Resources at KindSpace, an Ottawa-based community organization.
Artist Talk: In Conversation with Joana Joachim
During this talk, Nnebe was in conversation with Joana Joachim, Research and exhibition coordinator at Artexte and PhD Candidate in the department of Art History and Communication Studies and at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at McGill University, on themes reflected in the exhibition, her creative process, and what it means to produce work that attempts to go beyond fixed modes of representation.
The artist would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.