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Exploring Black communities: new exhibits at Dalhousie Art Gallery

Dalhousie Art Gallery’s new exhibits focus on Black experiences

The Dalhousie Art Gallery is set to unveil two new exhibits, As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, and Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters

The exhibits, which will be on display at Dalhousie Art Gallery from Feb. 3 to April 7, will shine light on the connections and intimacies of life in Black communities. The photos featured were shot through the lenses of Black photographers and captured moments of everyday life. 

As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic

As We Rise features photos from the Wedge Collection, a contemporary art collection founded by Kenneth Montague. Each image on display is taken by a Black photographer and features a Black subject, highlighting themes such as community, identity, power, joy and rest. 

“I think that community and identity and power all feed into and relate to and beget one another sort of seamlessly,” says curator Elliott Ramsey. “They’re almost like this kind of open circuit. Your community gives you your identity, gives you your power.” 

At the heart of this exhibit is a powerful mantra, “Lifting as we rise.” This phrase encapsulates the exhibit’s overarching theme; representing strength through unity.  Ramsey also mentions the significance of this exhibition being shown in Halifax.  

“One thing that I really love about this exhibition coming through to the East Coast is thinking about Halifax and as the site of Africville, the end of the underground railroad, Canada’s oldest Black community. So, there is so much really specific history, Canadian history, American history as well, that I think is really concentrated around this site, that kind of brings it sort of full circle from all the places it’s travelled.”

Ramsey thinks this will open opportunities for education and activation.

“I think it’s such a symbolic place for the exhibition to arrive,” says Ramsey. 

Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters

Family Matters offers viewers a unique glimpse into the shared experiences of the African Nova Scotian community. The photos transcend visual significance and evolve into a heartfelt homage to family and community. Crooks captures the everyday moments that encapsulate life, from unique perspectives. 

Crooks says technique is important when shooting portrait photography. 

“Part of it is not even being sneaky. It’s just, it’s really just catching somebody in a moment, whether it’s joy, sadness, intensity. Because in that moment, that’s really who they are.” 

The exhibit’s photos are notably all shot in black and white. Crooks is passionate about his work in darkroom photography and is the owner of a local studio. 

When asked how this process inspires his work, he said, “It’s like an artisanal process where you’re directly touching the materials and making that print kind of realize itself.” 

He has an intimate connection to both his craft and the subject matter of this exhibition.

“It can be almost like a spiritual, emotional kind of connection. Especially in this case, where there are people who I have very strong connections to, whether it’s my brother, my mother, or one of our family friends who I’ve known all my life.” The two exhibits will be on display at Dalhousie Art Gallery from Feb. 3 to April 7.

An opening reception celebration will be held on Friday, Feb. 2, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The artists of Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters will be in attendance alongside As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic curator Elliott Ramsey and Wedge founding director Kenneth Montague.

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