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Centre's new virtual space brings Black art to the forefront

A screenshot of the landing page of the Centre's new platform.

Image: From left to right, artist Camille Turner, Advisory Committee Member Rinaldo Walcott, Dr. Andrea Fatona and Researcher Nya Lewis.

Centre for the Study of Black Canadian Diaspora launches virtual research space

Today, The Centre for the Study of Black Canadian Diaspora (CSBCD) launches a powerful new online resource that will bring art by Black cultural producers to the forefront. 
The Centre will house a repository of artworks dating back to 1987, identified by its staff of researchers in consultation with artist-run centres, galleries, film archives, museums and libraries across Canada.  

The CSBCD was established in 2021 and is led by Associate Professor, curator and scholar, Dr. Andrea Fatona. The research team includes OCAD U graduate students Nya Lewis and Aisha Simpson, social justice educator Sidrah Khatoon, web developer Donica Willis and project coordinator Dr. Anil Narine.  

The Centre’s virtual space is designed to be hub of research activity, public events and screenings. It is also a portal linking visitors with archives, catalogues and collections containing a wide variety of visual art created by members of the Black diaspora. The site will also house critical writing and oral histories in which the artists and curators speak to their work in their own words, giving voice to the realities of being Black in Canada. 

 “Anti-Black racism has shaped the way Blackness has been present in Canada, and also incredibly absent. This project is about rectifying that erasure or minimal exposure, and achieving formal recognition of Black folks who have contributed to the sphere of fine arts in Canada,” says Dr. Fatona, who is carrying out this work as part of her role as the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Canadian Black Diasporic Cultural Production at OCAD University. 

The Centre's research focuses in particular on artworks from the late 1980’s onwards. This timeline is strategic. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was proposed in 1987 and became law the following year. The Act led to some additional support for Black artists but exhibition and archiving practices often did not ensure full visibility for their work.  

“This vital research will raise the visibility of Black creators and their incredible output. It also acts as a necessary tool for scholars and creative professionals to build deeper understandings of Black culture and aesthetics in Canada,” notes Dr. Ashok Mathur, Interim Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Dean of Graduate Studies at OCAD U. 

Critically, Dr. Fatona’s team will contextualize each artwork to reflect its cultural aspects and significance by augmenting existing descriptions. They are also creating new, culturally relevant metadata categories and search algorithms to ensure that these artworks can be easily located online by curators, historians and the public.  

The Centre is guided by an Advisory Committee composed of notable artists, curators, scholars and filmmakers, including Orla Garriques, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Dana Inkster, Michelle Jacques, dg morgan, Rinaldo Walcott and Geneviève Wallen. 

The launch of the Centre for the Study of Black Canadian Diaspora's virtual space is the beginning of the long-term work involved in building a living archive in collaboration with cultural organizations across the country.