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The Art Gallery of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located in Treaty 6 Territory, the traditional land of diverse Indigenous Peoples including the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Beaver Cree, Nitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Anishinaabe/Saulteaux/Ojibwe and Dene Peoples. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous, Inuit and Métis people who make Alberta their home today.

I Am Black History

Donna Paris and David Ofori Zapparoli, Installation view of I am Black History: Our Stories, Our Voices, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 2022.Photography by Charles Cousins, courtesy of the Art Gallery of Alberta.

I Am Black History explores the unseen, unknown and undocumented history of African Canadians. The goal is to expand the breadth and depth of knowledge and reorient commonly-held historic narratives of African Canadians (used here to include people who identify as West Indian, Black Canadian and/or multi-racial with African heritage). 

The result of the misconceptions and omissions of our visibility and participation in the common Canadian narrative has, in part, contributed to the anti-Black racism that has become entrenched in Canadian society. This project collects and animates oral histories of African Canadians through audio recordings and photographs that connect faces to the personal anecdotes of the contributing individuals.

This installation includes narratives from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and several Ontario communities. Much more is known about Black history in these parts of the country. Recently, we have been learning more about the Black presence in Western and Northern Canada. While this is the first physical installation of the project, we see this as the starting point for a more geographically inclusive version that will include all the provinces and territories of Canada. In future installations, we hope to make space for the public to add their own voices through recordings of their stories and those of their ancestors. 

You can hear podcast episodes from some of the Western Canadian participants below:

Karon Chester is Black History

Christian Mbanza is Black History

Vant Hayes is Black History

Organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Bios

Donna Marie Paris is a multi-generational African Canadian, born and raised in Nova Scotia but has called Toronto home for the past 30 years.

Paris is one of three African Canadian women who started the collective “In The Black Canada.” Through the collective, they have produced a series of videos entitled In The Black: Canada - The Web Chronicles (2015) in which African Canadians speak about their experiences of being Black in Canada. Their video installation The Windsor Project (2017) chronicles the history and experiences of African Canadians growing and living in Windsor Ontario and the variety of journeys it took for them and their ancestors to arrive there. This is now part of the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Donna co-produced a project titled I Am Black History. She was able to travel to Eastern and Central Canada in 2019 to collect stories from Black people about their experiences of being Black in Canada. She joined forces with photographer David Ofori Zapparoli who took portraits of the interview subjects.

With a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2020, Donna continued the project in the form of a podcast I Am Black History. Her recordings now include people from Eastern Canada as well as Quebec and Western Canada.

Paris believes that it’s important to know our history—who came before and what it cost them. She knows that in order for us to move forward in our lives we need to tell our stories. It’s only in going back in our history that we can fully access our present self.

David Ofori Zapparoli is the son of immigrant parents and was raised in Toronto.

Since the early 1980s Zapparoli has used lens-based art to document and reveal the lives of the marginalized in society. In the mid-to-late 1980s he collaborated with filmmakers on productions that focused on the immigration experience, Black female representation, and jazz music in Toronto. In the 1990s he photographed the Regent Park housing development, which resulted in several exhibitions and a book, Regent Park: The Public Experiment In Housing.

In the 1990s he made a series of experimental portraits that addressed the issue of “nature vs nurture” that related to his African and European heritage. Part of this work travelled internationally and is represented in The Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography.

In 2022 he released a book, Street Level: A Search For Belonging, that documents four decades of his street photography. Copies can be purchased from his website linked below.

For the project I Am Black History Zapparoli is collaborating with artist Donna Paris and is providing the portraits of all the interviewees.

Hours

Monday: closed
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: 11am-5pm
Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday: 11am-5pm
Saturday: 11am-5pm
Sunday: 11am-5pm

Admission

AGA members
FREE
Youth 0-17
FREE
Alberta students 18+
FREE
Out-of-province students
$10
General admission
$14
Seniors 65+
$10

Location

2 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T5J 2C1

780.422.6223
info@youraga.ca

Directions

The Art Gallery of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located in Treaty 6 Territory, the traditional land of diverse Indigenous Peoples including the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Beaver Cree, Nitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Anishinaabe/Saulteaux/Ojibwe and Dene Peoples. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous, Inuit and Métis people who make Alberta their home today.