August 9th was the opening/vernissage for Reconcile/Overcome at the Ottawa Art Gallery.
This exhibition bridges the relationship between two artists have to their history of colonization. One artist is forced to address her role as a colonizer, while the other works at addressing and overcoming the stigma that is associated within colonized bodies and unifying her practice with other cultures through shared memories and experience.
Shaya Ishaq is a Kenyan-Canadian multidisciplinary artist who explores how the body has historically been and is a site of colonial horror but how it can also manifest and act as a site of resistance. Her work focuses on the harmful stigmatization of hair in African cultures by the West and connects how similarity this specific intergenerational trauma resides in many indigenous colonized bodies. Ishaq uses a textile weaving technique called looping, in which the weaver uses one strand of fibre to create a stronger piece. Through this process the artist creates sculptural garments that are then used as wears and photographed/filmed on subjects.
Olivia Johnston’s works come from the position of the colonizer.
An Ottawa-based photographer, Olivia Johnston’s 2016 artist residency in Saint-Louis, Senegal became difficult as she began to identify and attempt to reconcile her own distinct role as colonizer: in Canada; as a white tourist in Africa; and in relation to her ancestors’ active roles as colonial occupiers. These works thus introduce questions about representation, portraiture, self-portraiture and travel as experience. She presents her photographs as a way of documenting the resilience and complexity of Saint-Louis and its people while acknowledging that her experience becomes part of its narrative.
This exhibition combines and examines the complexity of these relationships and how the artists negotiate their way through their reconciliation in their various disciplines.
The exhibition runs until September 9, 2018.