We’re entering Black History Month. For me, the month doesn’t mark a time for an increased awareness of Blackness. As a Black woman, I take that as an everyday commitment.
That engagement got a boost this week when I reviewed the ROM’s Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art exhibition. The diversity of Black experience is on full display in the museum’s third floor gallery. It’s part of the ongoing Of Africa project, a slate of cultural programming aimed at rethinking historical and contemporary representations of the continent.
The idea of rethinking how we view Africa in this country has never been a part of my Black History Month. To be sure, the month is meant to commemorate the achievements of a community forcibly removed from that homeland, scattered and enslaved. Our relationship to Africa often seems frozen in time taught as the distant point of origin from which our very being here, in Canada, unfolded.
So, I’m setting a challenge to rethink that relationship between Black Canada and Africa as part of my month.
With that in mind, here are a few events that highlight the diversity of expression coming from the African diaspora.
The Watah Theatre Double Bill
A workshop reading of d’bi.young anitafrika’s new play Once Upon A Black Boy, a coming-of-age tale about a Toronto boy navigating race, class and his mother’s recent cancer diagnosis, shares a bill with the world premiere of Najla Nubyanluv’s I Cannot Lose My Mind. In Nubyanluv’s afrofuturist play, a young women’s quest to cure her depression leads her to a doctor who discovers that his patients living with mental illness share the same recurring dreams.
February 1-17. 2:30pm & 8:30pm. $25-30. Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). See listing.
Born on PC’s with spare production tools, Gqom is a bass-heavy style of house music that went from bedroom studios in South Africa’s Durban township to dancefloors across Asia and Europe. One of the burgeoning genre’s pioneers, DJ Lag, plays a set with support from rapper/DJ Chippy Nonstop, who also founded Intersessions, a series of sound workshops for women, gender non-conforming and queer folk.
February 2. 10pm. $15. Bambi’s (1265 Dundas W). See listing.
Okavango African Orchestra
A reflection of the diversity of Africa’s diaspora, this eight-piece orchestra fuses the traditional music and instrumentation of several African cultures that historically had little or no interaction. The result is a hybrid of Somali jazz, Tigrinya folk music, Malagasy ballads, Ghanaian highlife and more.
February 3. 9pm. $10-15. Alliance Francaise de Toronto (24 Spadina). See listing.
Afrofusion Dance Class
Dancer/choreographer Esie Mensah is teaching her own unique style of Afrofusion, a mix of traditional and contemporary African, hip-hop, dancehall, soca, and house at this weekly workshop. Mensah has worked with Toronto’s own Drake and Nelly Furtado. But don’t be intimidated no prior dance experience is necessary to take her class.
February 6, 13 & 20. 5:30pm. Free. Sony Centre (1 Front E). See listing.
See NOW’s listings for more Black History Month events.
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