Light Grows The Tree

Introduction by Yaniya Lee

Commissioned by The Ethnic Aisle

Curated by Liz Ikiriko

Light Grows The Tree documents a community of black artists, writers, curators and collectors in Toronto. Taken by four photographers over two months, these portraits do the work of making the Black arts community visible. The Black diaspora has always struggled with the problem of history and archive. It’s the reason Black arts in Canada continue to exist as a rumour. Parallel to the ways in which our histories in the nation have been rewritten and erased, Black arts in Canada have become an absented presence. This is the first chapter in a project that seeks to recognize a community whose endeavours have been rendered palimpsestic by consistent disregard from historicized Canadian art history. 

The stakes of Black culture in Canada are high. Systemic racism in the form of violence and exclusion tears at the fabric of our many communities. Through visual arts we create new worlds and make sense of our histories, we are emboldened to confront the prerogatives of a multiculturalism that eclipses our integral place in the nation. There is such rich nuance to blackness here: it is no single thing. Our endeavours are held in the memories of several generations of folks who have shaped the Black arts scene through their various contributions. Going into the future we need to know of each other’s existence. Just as a tree needs light to grow, this community requires attention to focus and develop. In this first chapter, Light Grows The Tree begins the process of acknowledging those who have been the life force of Black arts in Toronto. 

Sandra Brewster,  Interdisciplinary Artist Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Sandra Brewster,  Interdisciplinary Artist

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Grace Channer, Interdisciplinary Artist & Scholar; Yaniya Lee, Writer & MA Candidate Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Grace Channer, Interdisciplinary Artist & Scholar; Yaniya Lee, Writer & MA Candidate

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Desmond Miller, Artist, Researcher Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Desmond Miller, Artist, Researcher

Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Shantel Miller, Artist Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Shantel Miller, Artist

Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Azza El Siddique, Interdisciplinary Artist Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Azza El Siddique, Interdisciplinary Artist

Photograph by Ebti Nabag

Ella Cooper, Interdisciplinary Artist & Documentary Filmmaker Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Ella Cooper, Interdisciplinary Artist & Documentary Filmmaker

Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Syrus Marcus Ware, Vanier Scholar, Artist, Activist, Educator; melannie monoceros, Poet, Textile & Performance Artist; Geneviéve Wallen, Curator & Writer Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Syrus Marcus Ware, Vanier Scholar, Artist, Activist, Educator; melannie monoceros, Poet, Textile & Performance Artist; Geneviéve Wallen, Curator & Writer

Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Michéle Pearson Clarke, Interdisciplinary Artist  Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Michéle Pearson Clarke, Interdisciplinary Artist 

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Anique Jordan, Artist, Writer & Social Entrepreneur Photograph by Yannick Anton

Anique Jordan, Artist, Writer & Social Entrepreneur

Photograph by Yannick Anton

William Ukoh, Artist Photograph by Yannick Anton

William Ukoh, Artist

Photograph by Yannick Anton

Taha Muharuma, Photographer; Soteeoh, Photographer Photograph by Yannick Anton

Taha Muharuma, Photographer; Soteeoh, Photographer

Photograph by Yannick Anton

Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor & Writer; Michael Chambers, Photographer; Wayne Salmon, Writer & Photographer Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor & Writer; Michael Chambers, Photographer; Wayne Salmon, Writer & Photographer

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Jorian Charlton, Photographer Photograph by Yannick Anton

Jorian Charlton, Photographer

Photograph by Yannick Anton

Deanna Bowen, Interdisciplinary Artist, Educator; Bushra Junaid, Artist, Arts Administrator; Sandra Brewster, Artist & Michéle Pearson Clarke, Artist

Deanna Bowen, Interdisciplinary Artist, Educator; Bushra Junaid, Artist, Arts Administrator; Sandra Brewster, Artist & Michéle Pearson Clarke, Artist

Dr. Kenneth Montague, Art Collector & Director Wedge Curatorial Projects Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Dr. Kenneth Montague, Art Collector & Director Wedge Curatorial Projects

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Black Artists Union, FROM L TO R: Curtia Wright, Aaron Jones, Destiny Grimm, Filmon Yohannes, Sylvia Limbana, Timothy Yanick Hunter, Phillip Saunders & Oreka James Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Black Artists Union, FROM L TO R: Curtia Wright, Aaron Jones, Destiny Grimm, Filmon Yohannes, Sylvia Limbana, Timothy Yanick Hunter, Phillip Saunders & Oreka James

Photograph by Dainesha Nugent-Palache

Buseje Bailey, Artist Photograph by Liz Ikiriko

Buseje Bailey, Artist

Photograph by Liz Ikiriko