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Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity

Toronto  |  Canada  | 

Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity

Presenting works from Toronto’s Wedge Collection new exhibition “Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity | Photographs from the Wedge Collection”.

Conceived, curated and organised by Toronto-based art collector Kenneth Montague, the show – the first major exhibition to examine the history, movement and experiences of African Canadians through photography – showcases a diverse selection of photographic works from his personal collection. Ranging from vintage portraits of African immigrants to Canada, to contemporary works by established artists, the exhibition at the Wedge Collection aims to instigate conversation surrounding the experiences of African Canadians.

Here, Kenneth Montague shares his personal story about the exhibition and how the Wedge Collection came about:

“My parents emigrated from Jamaica to Canada in the 1950s, arriving well before the great explosion of Caribbean and African immigrants of the subsequent “Pierre Trudeau” years. Born and raised in Windsor, in a neighborhood where we were the only Black family, I felt like an island – the only external signifiers of my black identity came in the form of the visual culture that I mostly experienced on TV and at the movies – and across the border, at cultural institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts. There, as a ten-year-old, I first encountered Harlem Renaissance artist James VanDerZee’s bold and sophisticated images of his vibrant New York City neighbourhood, and later, African American masters like Gordon Parks and Roy DeCarava. As a high school student, while working as a volunteer tour guide at the North American Black Historical Museum (now the Amherstburg Freedom Museum) I learned that we, too, have a rich cultural heritage – one that I certainly wasn’t being taught in my Canadian History class.

Years later, I began exploring contemporary art that spoke to me about my own experience. Issues around race, gender, memory, migration, community, and even personal style became important themes in my growing Wedge Collection. From the start, I recognized the importance of creating a space for emerging African Canadian artists – hence the name, and the mission: a deliberate attempt to “wedge” these artists into the mainstream of contemporary art.

“Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity | Photographs from the Wedge Collection” is the first major exhibition to examine the history, movement and experiences of Black Canadians through contemporary photography. This touring show was co-organized with the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto) where it first opened in 2010, before travelling to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Halifax) in 2013. It is a collection of photographs, video works and memorabilia from my personal archive – ranging from rare vintage portraits of the first African immigrants to Canada, to contemporary works by established artists. At the Art Gallery of Windsor, there is an expanded section of emerging artists and a specially commissioned video work by the In the Black Canada collective based on a series of interviews with members of Windsor’s black community.

There are many other stories to be told, and my hope is that this small, largely regional, and highly subjective selection of works from the Wedge Collection will promote further discussion concerning how each of us feels about our place in the Canadian landscape.”

Kenneth Montague,
Curator and collector

DAWIT L. PETROS, Sign, 2003. © Courtesy the artist, Tiwani Contemporary and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
DAWIT L. PETROS, Sign, 2003. © Courtesy the artist, Tiwani Contemporary and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
ANIQUE JORDAN, Detail from 94 Chestnut at the Crossroads, 2016. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
ANIQUE JORDAN, Detail from 94 Chestnut at the Crossroads, 2016. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
ZANELE MUHOLI, Sacha “Kalmplex” Morrison, 2008. © Courtesy the artist; Stevenson and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
ZANELE MUHOLI, Sacha “Kalmplex” Morrison, 2008. © Courtesy the artist; Stevenson and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
SANDRA BREWSTER, Plain Black, 2011. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
SANDRA BREWSTER, Plain Black, 2011. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
(l–r) ZANELE MUHOLI, Sacha “Kalmplex” Morrison, 2008; STAN DOUGLAS, Dancer,  2011; MICHAEL CHAMBERS, Sunflower, 1994; STELLA FAKIYESI, Untitled (from the series Target Market), 1999; DAVID ZAPPAROLI, You Are Just A Child, 1992. © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo:  Yannick Anton
(l–r) ZANELE MUHOLI, Sacha “Kalmplex” Morrison, 2008; STAN DOUGLAS, Dancer, 2011; MICHAEL CHAMBERS, Sunflower, 1994; STELLA FAKIYESI, Untitled (from the series Target Market), 1999; DAVID ZAPPAROLI, You Are Just A Child, 1992. © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
(l–r) DAWIT L.PETROS, The Porch 2, 2003; Untitled (Trophies), 2003; Remix, 2003; Amal & Elias, 2005; The Porch, 2003; Hadenbes, 2005; Untitled (The Kitchen), 2003; Amal & Elias 2, 2005. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
(l–r) DAWIT L.PETROS, The Porch 2, 2003; Untitled (Trophies), 2003; Remix, 2003; Amal & Elias, 2005; The Porch, 2003; Hadenbes, 2005; Untitled (The Kitchen), 2003; Amal & Elias 2, 2005. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie, 2006.  © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo:  Yannick Anton
CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie, 2006. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie (detail), 2006. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie (detail), 2006. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
JALANI MORGAN, Black Lives They Matter Here, 2015. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
JALANI MORGAN, Black Lives They Matter Here, 2015. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre II, 2014. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre II, 2014. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre I, 2014. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre I, 2014. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection
DEANNA BOWEN, Sum of the Parts: What Can be Named (installation view), 2010. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
DEANNA BOWEN, Sum of the Parts: What Can be Named (installation view), 2010. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
IN THE BLACK CANADA COLLECTIVE, The Windsor Project, 2017. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
IN THE BLACK CANADA COLLECTIVE, The Windsor Project, 2017. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
MEGAN MORGAN, Re-Photograph Series, 2008. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
MEGAN MORGAN, Re-Photograph Series, 2008. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo:  Yannick Anton
ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
Opening of
Opening of "Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity" at the Art Gallery of Windsor, February 10, 2017. Photo: Yannick Anton
"The Long Road" by CHARLOTTE BRONTÉ PERRY, 1967. © Courtesy Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
JON BLAK, Jamall Brothers, and Oakwood, 2012-13. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
JON BLAK, Jamall Brothers, and Oakwood, 2012-13. © Courtesy the artist and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
"Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity" at the Art Gallery of Windsor, February 10, 2017. Photo: Yannick Anton
Wedge Collection owner Dr Kenneth Montague.
Wedge Collection owner Dr Kenneth Montague. "Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity" at the Art Gallery of Windsor, February 10, 2017. © Courtesy Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton'
(l–r) KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre series, 2014; YANNICK ANTON, Untitled (from the series Yes Yes Y'all), 2009-2014; JALANI MORGAN, Black Lives They Matter Here, 2015; SANDRA BREWSTER, Plain Black, 2011; STACEY TYRELL, Position as Desired, 2001 (installation view). © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
(l–r) KARA SPRINGER, Ana and Andre series, 2014; YANNICK ANTON, Untitled (from the series Yes Yes Y'all), 2009-2014; JALANI MORGAN, Black Lives They Matter Here, 2015; SANDRA BREWSTER, Plain Black, 2011; STACEY TYRELL, Position as Desired, 2001 (installation view). © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
(l–r) ANIQUE JORDAN, 94 Chestnut at the Crossroads; MEGAN MORGAN, Re-Photograph Series, 2008; JON BLAK, Jamall Brothers, and Oakwood, 2012-13; CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie, 2006; ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14 (installation view). © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton
(l–r) ANIQUE JORDAN, 94 Chestnut at the Crossroads; MEGAN MORGAN, Re-Photograph Series, 2008; JON BLAK, Jamall Brothers, and Oakwood, 2012-13; CHRISTINA LESLIE, EveryTING Irie, 2006; ERIKA DEFREITAS, I am Not Tragically Coloured, 2013-14 (installation view). © Courtesy the artists and Dr Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Collection. Photo: Yannick Anton

The Wedge Collection is included in the Art Guide.