Cultural Diversity

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Maman statue and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, “representation,” and “to be representative of” are at the core of arts programming challenges in today’s realities, and especially so with COVID-19’s current status.

Arts organizations are opening. Programming has begun and audiences are returning, though uncertain. At this time of reopening, many organizations are seriously working in new ways to represent and reflect their diverse communities.

Two recent visits in British Columbia were particularly inspirational for me. The University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology’s exhibition Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s Denyse Thomasos solo exhibition. Both exhibitions were stellar and both presented artists we have featured in our installations honouring Canada’s Black artists.

Chantal Gibson had works in Sankofa, and the Thomasos exhibition featured paintings from the series now in our foyer.

The Thomasos exhibition was organized by Kleinberg’s McMichael Gallery and curated by Gaëtane Verna, Director of Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery, and she advised us on our current installation. The exhibition introduction noted Thomasos’s power, “to help us see human history in a new light.” She did, with strong work, and so too did that exhibition.

Sankofa included both African and Black Canadian artists with work from the museum’s collection and that borrowed from artists. Three sections in the show were curated by young Black curatorial students under the guidance of senior Museum of Anthropology, or MOA, curators. That exhibition effectively reflected on the past, the present and indeed the future. The introductory statements were stunning, and the facts presented were stark and demand reflection.

Quotes such as “A guiding light forward — permission to exist as a living ancestor” and “A past confronted with our future in mind” were poignant and germane.

Colleagues, the arts do and should reflect society. We, as viewers, are invited into the dialogue and reflections and are richer for those opportunities.

Dance, theatre and orchestras — large and small — across this country are, likewise, working in new directions with composers, musicians, writers, actors, choreographers and dancers to present unknown stories.

The representation of artists of colour is improving, and so too will the presentations reflecting our cultural diversities.

Again, I applaud and thank them all.

Thank you.


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