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Exhibition foregrounds the past and future of Black histories

A painting by Marlon Barrington with human faces with a white outline around each.

Image: In Living Colour (2020) by Marlon Barrington, oil on panel.

Exhibition foregrounds the past and future of Black histories

OCAD U Criticism and Curatorial Practice graduate, leaf jerlefia invites viewers to slow down, recharge and reflect on Black futures and histories in an exhibition that is on view at Yonge-Dundas Square throughout February. 

jerlefia's curated video program, between sunshine and clay will be displayed on five enormous screens in the middle of the city’s busiest intersection and is co-presented by OCAD University's RBC Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and Yonge-Dundas Square.

“This exhibition celebrates Black excellence and resilience by making space for radical slowness and healing,” notes jerlefia, a Jamaican-Canadian poet, curator and cultural critic who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD U in 2020. The curatorial project is in keeping with jerlefia’s overall practice which, explores notions of home, belonging and diaspora.  

“As we navigate a global pandemic and civil unrest, viewers of this exhibition are encouraged to find power in rest and recovery,” she continues. 

Featuring practicing artist-activists within the community, the exhibition contemporarizes Black history by presenting stories from the past and present. Video artworks and poetry by current OCAD University students and recent graduates from programs that include Photography, Drawing and Painting and Creative Writing are showcased. 

More than 100,000 people pass through Yonge and Dundas Square each day. jerlefia hopes that this exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to carve out a moment of quietude amidst the chaos of city living. 

“By interrupting Toronto’s busiest urban area, the exhibition becomes a radical gesture. Thousands of passersby will slow down or stop to view the works and read the poetry. Many will leave the square more inspired and connected to the community around them. 

This curatorial initiative was made possible through the Black History Month Digital Exhibition Curator Career Launcher initiative coordinated by OCAD U’s RBC Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers. More information can be found on the CEAD's website

Read more about the exhibition’s featured artists: 

Marlon Barrington was born and raised in England. After migrating to Canada he began painting based on his interest in people, their diversity, heritage and culture. As a Black artist he has become increasingly drawn to representing the people who share his heritage. Barrington has participated in group and solo shows in Toronto and the Durham area. He completed his BFA at OCAD U in Drawing and Painting in 2020.  

Zawadi Bunzigiye is a multidisciplinary artist based in so-called "Canada". In her art, she focuses on home, the body and the journey towards freedom. Her work has allowed her to be featured in art exhibitions and be published in multiple youth magazines. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at OCAD University.  
Chauncey Downer-Hincks is a first-year OCAD University in the Creative Writing program and has a certificate in English Literature and Popular Culture from Ryerson University. Focusing predominantly on poetry, with intentions to expand into other mediums, she explores language as a form of expulsion, intertwining visions of the mind to produce a cathartic experience of thoughts, visualizations and individuality. 

Ehiko Odeh is a multidisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria and living in Toronto. She explores decolonization, health and wellness in her work. A 2021 graduate of OCAD University’s Drawing and Painting program, Odeh has shown work in Lagos and Toronto. Her artistic style is characterized by an expressive palette that uses a variety of textiles. Her practice emulates elements of traditional Nigerian craft, which manifests as large-scale, multi-medium paintings, performances, drawings and installations.  
Bidemi Oloyede is an emerging street and portrait documentary photographer born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Now living and working in Toronto he uses black and white film to capture both vulnerable and vibrant images that tell a story about his subjects and community. He combines his passion for the historical medium of photography with his interest in the human condition. Oloyede graduated from OCAD University in 2020 with a BFA in Photography.