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Art initiative marks Emancipation but story of slavery in Canada needs more attention, activists say –



A collective of Toronto museums has released a set of new art projects by Black artists to celebrate Emancipation Month, but while many welcome the initiative, others say the focus should be on educating people about Canada’s legacy of slavery.

To celebrate Emancipation Month, which marks when slavery was abolished in British colonies in 1834, the city announced on Tuesday the release of several art projects by Black artists through the Toronto History Museums collective.

Quentin VerCetty, a Toronto artist, is one of them, releasing an augmented-reality (AR) art installation called Ancestral Uprising.

Using a smartphone, his artwork can be seen anywhere in the city. It’s a reimagination of the Black power fist with a golden base that represents the value of Black life by likening it to gold, and purple hibiscus flowers that represent healing and royalty.

Creating a virtual installation was also an artistic choice, VerCetty says.

“The AR was meant to disrupt space but also affirm spaces where history has taken place and there are no physical memorials or plaques to honour those stories,” he said.

VerCetty’s AR installation Ancestral Uprising can be seen anywhere in the city using a smartphone. (Quentin VerCetty, Ancestral Uprising, 2021)

While working on the piece, VerCetty spoke with Black and Indigenous elders to ensure he represented the struggles of different generations and communities. The fist features patterns and designs that were once used by the Ndebele people in South Africa during colonization and apartheid to encourage people to stay resilient.

And similar to Indigenous teachings, he says African knowledge also teaches that people are connected to the land. VerCetty includes a flower at the back of the piece to honour these lessons that deal with living in harmony with others and the Earth.

“Speaking with elders is such an important aspect for me to hear what the commonalities are of what they feel is needed for today’s generation to move forward,” he said.

‘Emancipation doesn’t just speak about the past’

In light of Black Lives Matter protests and a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black communities, VerCetty says he hopes that, especially during this month, his art sparks a curiosity in people. He hopes they’ll learn how to create more equitable societies.

Reflecting on lessons from the past, he says, is one of the ways he believes that will happen.

“Emancipation doesn’t just speak about the past, but also about the present and how we want to move forward,” he said.

“I want people to think about what paths and trails we’re laying for tomorrow, as our ancestors have done for us in the past.”

A reimagined portrait of Mary Ann Shadd by artist Adeyemi Adegbesan is one of the art projects launched as part of the Awakenings program. (City of Toronto)

The Toronto History Museums’ initiative is part of a larger program launched by the city to address anti-Black racism, called Awakenings.

Other pieces that are part of the program include:

  • A portrait of journalist, newspaper publisher and lawyer Mary Ann Shadd on the exterior of the Mackenzie House Museum.
  •  A short film titled Superbloom: An Emancipation Story and an updated lyric video for Kardinal Offishall’s song Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover), made in collaboration with the Toronto Raptors.

‘We need to know the pain’

Like others who attended public schools in the city, Rosemary Sadlier didn’t learn of Canada’s history of slavery until she was in high school.

“I was horrified when I found out …  And I’m a descendent of freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad on one side of my family,” she said, referring to escaped Black slaves who used a network of secret routes and safehouses called the Underground Railroad to escape to Canada in the early-to-mid-19th century. 

Rosemary Sadlier, the previous president of the Ontario Black History Society, didn’t learn about Canada’s legacy of slavery until high school. She says more needs to be done to educate people outside of Emancipation Month. (Submitted by Rosemary Sadlier)

An author, social justice advocate and previous president of the Ontario Black History Society, Sadlier has been campaigning to have Emancipation Day recognized across Canada since 1995.

It was only on Aug.1 of this year that Canada marked its first federally recognized Emancipation Day, she points out. Mayor John Tory also announced August would be Emancipation Month in Toronto.

Although Sadlier supports the city’s initiatives to honour the month, she says more needs to be done to educate students and the wider public about slavery in Canada

“We have to move away from bringing all of the time focus and resources to particular days or months,” said Sadlier.

“That applies to Emancipation Month as well. It’s not supposed to be the only time we discuss slavery; it is a time when we bring special focus to it.”

Black History Month, for example, which Sadlier also advocated for, was never meant to be the only time that people spoke or learned about Black history. Instead, she says, it was designed to be a time for people to share knowledge and discuss what they had learned throughout the year.

When it comes to viewing the work of Black artists, Shenikqwa Phillip, program manager for Black Women in Motion, a Toronto-based organization that supports Black survivors of gender-based violence, adds it is crucial for people to learn about the activism and history of what that art represents.

“If we’re expressing the beauty, we need to know the pain,” she said.

“We need to acknowledge that Canada has a history of colonial violence, not only towards Black folks but also towards Indigenous folk in terms of how this country was built.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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Art Fx #38: "Hill Street Cushion" by Jen Manuell – Huntsville Doppler



Art Fx is a year-long series on Huntsville Doppler featuring Huntsville-area visual artists.

“Hill Street Cushion” by Jen Manuell of Fish Eye Sisters is an 18” x 18” cushion with a pieced and quilted textile front, featuring hand-dyed wool and freeform stitching, with velvet on the backside and a Canadian-made feather-down insert.

“This is one of the cushions from my most recent collection, featuring over 80 different fabrics,” says Jen. ” The colours were inspired by a recent trip to Peggy’s Cove — especially the amazing lichen on the docks.”

Hill Street Cushion” is available online at for $230.

About the artist

Every cut, every pin, every stitch…every step of every Fish Eye Sisters product is designed and handmade by just me, Jen Manuell.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved playing with colour and figuring out new ways of doing things.

Combining my love of textiles and dyeing wool, my truly one-of-a-kind woollen home goods are a modern twist on tradition. Woven wool flannel is my favourite material and it features in all of my recent work. I over-dye a lot of it myself so that I can inject plenty of pattern and colour and texture into every piece. These subtle variations add so much interest.

Each piece is a unique composition. There really aren’t any duplicates or copies — they’re all original, timeless, functional pieces for your home. Everything is made with care and attention to detail in my home studio just north of Huntsville.

Find Jen and Fish Eye Sisters online at or on Instagram @fisheyesisters. Contact her at

See more local art in Doppler’s Art Fx series here.

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Penticton art exhbit explores feminism and activism –



With every brushstroke, Karla Avendaño is honouring women and the Egyptian goddess said to look over women, Hathor.

“Women matter. It’s funny that in this century we still have to be telling people that women are an important part of society but we do. We have to remind them,” said Avendaño.

“My exhibition is about empowering women and telling the world that we are here and we are an important part of society.”

In her first solo exhibition, Hathor: Goddess of Many Things, Avendaño introduces herself through bright colours and creative scenes, while also advocating for equal rights for women around the world.

Read more:
Penticton Arts Council showcases 100 clay cats in art exhibit

“I am working on [a painting] right now and it’s called Finding My Voice,” said Avendaño.

“It’s a special piece because it’s an Afghan lady so it’s very special for me because of all the conflict that is happening in Afghanistan right now and I feel for these girls not knowing what the future is going to be.”

The artist is one of eight in residence at the Leir House Cultural Centre where she has developed her skills for the last year leading up to the exhibition.

Read more:
Penticton, B.C. photography book records pandemic, floods and fires

“She brings such a fresh and unique energy and vibe to the Leir House as well so that’s really, really cool and just watching the trajectory of her art over the past year has been so wonderful to watch,” said Bethany Handfield, Penticton and District Community Arts Council administrator.

Hathor: Goddess of Many Things can be discovered Thursday to Sunday until Nov. 6 at the Leir House Cultural Centre.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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200,000-year-old handprints may be the world's oldest artwork, scientists say –



A group of fossilized handprints and footprints found in Tibet, dating back roughly 200,000 years, could be the earliest examples of human art. And they were made by children.

Every parent knows that children love to get their hands and feet into mud. Such seems to be the case long ago at what used to be a hot spring at Quesang, high on the Tibetan Plateau at an altitude of 4,269 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level.

A report in the journal Science Bulletin suggests these impressions were intentionally placed, not just the result of wandering in the area. The foot and hand prints fit exactly within a space, arranged close together like a mosaic. Their size indicates they were made by two children, one the size of a 7-year-old, and the other the size of a 12-year-old. 

Researchers discovered what is possibly the world’s oldest artwork, rendered here in a 3D scan, on a rocky promontory at Quesang on the Tibetan Plateau in 2018. (D.D. Zhang et al. / Science Bulletin)

During that time, travertine, which is a type of limestone formed by hot mineral springs, formed a pasty mud which was perfect for making handprints. Later, when the hot spring dried up, the mud hardened into stone, preserving the prints over time. 

The rocks have been dated to between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago. It is not known exactly who the people were that lived on the Tibetan Plateau at that time, but one possibility is the Denisovans, a branch of our early ancestors who lived in Asia and resembled modern humans. Tibetans living today still carry Denisovan genes.

Two ethnic Tibetan children play chess at a Tibetan village at the feet of Kalong Mountain in Tongren County. (Jason Lee / Reuters)

Whether the imprints can be considered art or just kids playing in the mud is up for interpretation, although the authors of the paper told Live Science it may be art in the same way that parents hang scribbles from children on their refrigerators and call it art. The authors describe the medium the prints are in as intentionally altered, which they suggest could have been a kind of performance to show like, “Hey, look at me, I’ve made my handprints over these footprints.”

Or perhaps these impressions represent the human desire to leave marks behind on the landscape that say, “I was here.” It’s a tradition that continues today with graffiti on walls in back alleys and famous actors and actresses who leave impressions of their hands and feet in cement along Hollywood Boulevard.

A makeshift memorial appeared for late comedian, actor and legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis around his hand and feet prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles when he died in 2017. (Kyle Grillot / Reuters)

Little did these prehistoric kids know their handiwork would be preserved for hundreds of thousands of years.

If the carefully made prints are considered art, it pushes the history of rock art back more than 100,000 years. The oldest stencil-type handprints, where a hand is placed on a wall and coloured powder is blown around it to make an outline, have been found along with other cave paintings in Sulawesi, Indonesia and El Castillo, Spain dating back between 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. This is known as parietal art because it is not meant to be moved, unlike paintings or statues that can be displayed anywhere and traded. And the oldest statues also only go back to about the same time period.

A cave painting dating back to nearly 44,000 years was seen in a limestone cave in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Picture taken December 4, 2019. (Indonesia’s National Research Centre for Archaeology/Griffith University/Handout via Reuters)

The children of ancient Tibet could be considered among the world’s first artists, or maybe they were just playing in the mud like all kids do. But the question of whether the impressions are art or not is almost moot because handprints and footprints from the deep past provide valuable scientific information.

An international team of researchers describe ancient hand and footprints made deliberately which they argue represent art. (Gabriel Ugueto)

Archeology usually deals with fragments from past cultures, such as pieces of pottery, building foundations, monuments and bones. It is up to the scientists to infer, to fill in the gaps and try to determine what the people were actually like. But handprints are the direct signature of a person.

Tourists on Hollywood Boulevard squat down to place their hands in the prints of their favourite actors to get a sense of what it might be like to shake their hand, sort of a virtual handshake. Imagine a handshake that reaches across millennia into an actual moment in time, to a couple of kids who were just messing in the mud.

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