Black History Month art exhibit aims to answer an age-old question

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Many Vancouverites are asked the question: “Where are you from?” While the intent might be innocuous, the question holds a deeper meaning for black Vancouverites, and a new art exhibit wants to shine a light on that.

Vancouver’s black community makes up about 1% of the entire city’s population, and, despite the fact that Vancouver fancies itself a diverse city, some members of the black community feel they don’t fit neatly into the region’s perception of itself.

Anthonia Ogundele, who owns a storefront in Gastown, wanted to come up with an art exhibit to coincide with Black History Month and, through chatting with fellow black artists, realized they had a shared experience.

Image: Patkau Architects

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“I had a conversation with Floyd Sandiford, who’s a painter, and we kind of bounced around concepts, trying to get to know each other a bit, and we both laughed about our experiences,” Ogundele told Vancity Buzz.

“He’s from Montreal, and I said ‘yeah, I’m from Toronto,’ but then we joked about how we were always asked further questions like ‘no, where are you FROM, from.'”

A lightbulb went on for Ogundele, who said this was likely an experience shared across many racial and ethnic communities. Ogundele, along with Sandiford and photographer Shahanah Shivji, want to tell the stories of 40 black Vancouverites through photography, painting, and text. Their aim is to find out how they feel when they hear the words “where are you from,” which is also the title of the exhibit.

“[The question] seems quite innocuous, but it can either bring people closer together, or further apart,” said Ogundele.

“The purpose of this exhibit is to put it on the streets, make people see black history every day as they’re walking around downtown.”

The exhibit would be displayed in Ogundele’s storefront so it’s visible to all who pass by.

In order to raise the money to make this installation become a reality, Ogundele has started a GoFundMe page with a target of $3,500, largely for materials and to compensate the artists who are participating. She hopes to raise the money by February 5 and to launch the exhibit on February 11.

Donors will receive rewards like photo books of the exhibit, canvas prints, and free use of the exhibit space.

If you’d like to donate to get “Where Are You From” off the ground, click here.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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