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    How an African collection of art in Canada is celebrated with care and community

    Western approaches to studying African materials have had a colonial bias. A curator considers what it means to think of the collection as needing to exist in relation to communities.

    A significant collection of traditional African art has had a home in Canada for almost 100 years. (Qanita Lilla), Author provided
    A significant collection of traditional African art has had a home in Canada for almost 100 years. (Qanita Lilla), Author provided

    A significant collection of traditional African art has had a home in Canada for almost 100 years.

    At Agnes Etherington Art Centre, we are working on new, more hospitable practices of care for this collection. This means that we are attentive to the unmet needs of the collection and are taking responsibility for responding to these in ways that encourages community access and inclusion.

    We are located at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ont., on the territories of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat, in a city where over 7,000 people identify as First Nations, Inuit or Métis.

    The African art collection, named after donors Justin and Elisabeth Lang, consists of approximately 600 three-dimensional pieces that originate from 19 West African countries.

    This collection is part of a cluster of similar collections in North America that made their way via European art markets. In 1938, Elisabeth Lang (nee Von Taussig), fleeing from Nazi-occupied Vienna, started the collection with a Baule figure from Ivory Coast that she purchased in an Amsterdam junk shop.

    Hands in gloves seen holding sculptural elements on a blue fabric background.
    Agnes staff are seen positioning African pieces. (Tim Forbes), Author provided

    European market in African art

    The European market in African art had boomed in the 1920s and 1930s. European enthusiasm for African art was partly due to its influence on modernist artists, such as Picasso, Cézanne and Gauguin.

    From the early 1900s, cultural belongings from West Africa were placed on the art market directly from European, mainly French, colonies. Buyers and sellers were colonial officials, missionaries or in the military. This commercial network remained intact as the appreciation of African art shifted dramatically from an ethnographic bias where African objects were studied as materials of a specific people, to becoming African “art” for aesthetic contemplation.

    Both these frameworks for studying African material had a colonial bias. As scientific specimens, objects from Africa were often used as evidence of racial and cultural difference. The term “primitive” art demonstrates this racism.

    As art, these objects were used to qualify Africa as mysterious and incomprehensible to the western mind. The establishment of an African art market therefore had direct ties to European colonial projects and imperial commercial networks that reinforced colonial violences.

    At least four lives of the collection

    The Lang family donated the collection to Agnes in 1984. At the time, it was the largest collection of African art at a Canadian university. As a body, the collection has had at least four lives: one within Africa as an active part of everyday life, another in Europe as part of a thriving art market, in Canada as a private art collection and now as a museum holding on a university campus.

    But our records of these lives are sparse. We know very little about the contexts in which the individual pieces were produced, bought and sold in Africa, from as far south as Angola to as far north as Mauritania.

    Instead, museum records and databases focus on other things: place of origin, material make up and physical size. These kinds of records were made for institutions, not communities.

    ‘You are holding communities’

    Decolonising Cultural Spaces: The Living Cultures Project, is an initiative with a short film at its heart about uniting Indigenous communities across borders, to celebrate and protect their cultures.

    In this film, Samwel Nangiria, Maasai community leader, notes:

    You are not holding artifacts, you are holding communities … museums need to be a place of people, not a place of artifacts. When we see these objects we see our parents, we see our ancestors.”

    As curator of the Lang collection, I am rethinking its future role. How do we adjust our practices to respond to a colonial past and to the gaps in our understanding? Considering voices like Nangiria’s in restitution debates, I believe that while the collection resides with us, we have the responsibility to respond to new questions:

    • What does it mean to think of the collection as living, and of needing to be in relation to communities?

    • How does a museum meet these evolving needs, and practise better care?

    • How do we respond to a complex history proactively, highlight absences and enable alternatives?

    New curatorial approaches

    Agnes’s 2022 exhibition With Opened Mouths drew on sculptural elements from contemporary art and incorporated the work of Nigerian Canadian artist Oluseye Ogunlesi.

    This exhibition was conceived under pandemic lockdown in Cape Town. I was confronting isolation, impending economic migration to Canada and the start of curatorial work at Agnes and Queen’s University. I felt compelled to find new ways to enliven a collection that inhabited an awkward silence in the museum.

    Then the dance craze, “Jerusamela,” by Master KG and Nomcebo, became a global phenomenon. Mobilizing the world, it presented another view of Africa: action, aliveness and contemporaneity.

    Displayed African masks and objects, two showing a male and female faces, seen against a blue landscape background.
    Exhibition view of ‘With Opened Mouths,’ 2022. (Tim Forbes), Author provided

    ‘With Opened Mouths’

    For the Agnes exhibit With Opened Mouths, we discarded the glass display cases often used in museums and instead used labelling that echoed contemporary African signage. To open spaces outside the museum, a podcast ran alongside the exhibition, and currently continues into a second season. With Opened Mouths: The Podcast is a digital safe space where I interview racialized creatives to discuss their practice.

    The podcast not only reflects on the journeys of artists but also the crucial value of artistic communities.

    Moving out of the vault

    On July 15, the Lang Collection makes its next journey. The collection will move to a temporary home on campus in preparation for renovations at Agnes. These renovations are not only about expanding Agnes’s space, but also about decolonizing Agnes’s curatorial practices.

    The move of the African collection out of the vault is momentous. Although portions of the collection have been on display before, this is the first time the entire collection has been brought above ground to once again be part of the living world.

    To honour the liveliness of beings and history both seen and unseen, on July 15 we are holding a ceremonial procession, Vulindlela! Out the Gates, named after South African music icon Brenda Fassie’s post-apartheid hit music single.

    A woman's face next to a purple vertical design element that says 'With Opened Mouths, Agnes podcast.
    Poet Otoniya J. Okot Bitek has written poetry in response to visiting the African collection. (Seasmin Taylor), Author provided

    Celebration of presence, welcome, care

    Agnes staff and community members will celebrate with music, poetry and dance, and we will launch the poetry bundle eleven metal tongues written by award-winning poet Otoniya J. Okot Bitek. The project emerged after Bitek’s first visit to the vaults.

    Bitek’s poetry evokes a deep sense of being in the collection’s presence, of the uneasy fit of written descriptions in collection databases with the quivering reality before us, the inadequacies of language and suppressed stories. Vulindlela! will be a moment of hope, welcome and care. It marks a renewed commitment to reconsider the living significance of these belongings.

    In essence, these curatorial practices seek to acknowledge the African communities and artists who have, unknowingly, built up the collection at Agnes.

    The hearts, hands and minds of those who remain unnamed need their labour celebrated, and their voices heard.The Conversation

    __________________________________

    Qanita Lilla, Associate Curator Arts of Africa, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

    Queen’s places 3rd worldwide in 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

    University secures its best performance to date with third consecutive top-10 finish.

    [Illustrative aerial drone photo Queen's University campus]

    For the third straight year, Queen’s has ranked among the top 10 in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings – earning third place worldwide and first place in North America out of over 1,700 universities. Queen’s is the only Canadian university to achieve three top-10 placements since the rankings began in 2019.

    The THE Impact Rankings are a global measurement for assessing universities’ performance in advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were established by UN member nations in 2015 to guide global action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure shared peace and prosperity for all people by 2030.  

    "It is an honour to be recognized for our institution’s ongoing contributions to advancing the SDGs. These goals are reflective of the university’s mission and our desire to be recognized as a global institution," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. "The Impact Rankings have played an instrumental role in bringing together our community by creating a focus on the numerous ways Queen’s is engaged in solving the world’s most pressing challenges. Our performance in the rankings tells us that we are on the right track, and our efforts are having an impact."

    The 2023 rankings reviewed institutions from 117 countries, including 26 Canadian universities, and saw an overall increase of 11 per cent in worldwide participation over last year.

    "It’s really impressive what Queen’s University is doing to meet the goals and is a testament to how seriously it takes those critically important goals and how the whole sector is united in pursuit of a sustainable future for us all," says Phil Baty, Chief Global Affairs Officer with Times Higher Education. "The rankings are vital for millions of prospective students who are increasingly demanding to see evidence that the universities they consider for their education are committed to sustainability and to helping them to become sustainably minded citizens."

    Our performance

    The Impact Rankings evaluate universities’ activities across four important areas – research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship – using hundreds of quantitative and qualitative data points.

    Once again Queen’s submitted evidence for all 17 SDGs, and scored outstanding marks, in particular for advancing SDGs 2, 11, and 16. The university placed first in the world for its contributions to SDG 2: Zero Hunger; second in the world for SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions; and seventh for SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

    "Our performance in this year’s rankings confirms that Queen’s is realizing its aspirations to be a university that effects real, positive change at the local, national, and global level," says Principal Deane. "Our community is working together to improve our world and to help shape a better future for all of us and the planet."

    Queen’s submitted more than 400 pieces of evidence this year, highlighting institutional operations, policies, research, and strategy, and involving collaborative work by dozens of units across the university. Some examples of the evidence provided and evaluated this year include:

    • SDG 2 – Swipe it Forward Queen’s, an initiative to help address food insecurity on campus and provide short-term, immediate support to students in need. All students on meal plans have the option to donate up to five meals per semester to a student in need.
    • SDG 2 – The new Queen’s PEACH Market, a ‘pay what you can’ model where untouched food is packaged and made available to members of the university community.
    • SDG 16 – The John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy in the Department of Economics informs policymaking in Canada and abroad by focusing on policy-relevant research in economics and related fields.
    • SDG 16 – Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP) is the oldest and largest model parliament in Canada. The student-led event sees about 300 students take over Canada’s House of Commons where they experience the legislative process by forming political parties, running for office, drafting bills, and debating them on the floor.
    • SDG 11 – Queen’s is committed to recording and preserving aspects of cultural heritage such as local folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge. Our Office of Indigenous Initiatives – Art on Campus program has installed artwork across campus from many different Indigenous nations, as well as an outdoor plinth that identifies the Indigenous land the university sits on.
    • SDG 11 – The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, or "The Isabel" as it is fondly known, hosts public performances, bringing local, national, and internationally renowned artists and performers of all genres to the local community, including musicians and performing artists.
    • SDG 11 – The Sustainable Transportation Sub-Working Group provides recommendations for the implementation of alternative transportation such as public transit options, parking pass options, and active transportation with a focus on benefits for the environment, human health, and the economy.
    • SDG 15 – The Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) is one of the premier scientific field stations in Canada. For almost 70 years, researchers and students have gathered at QUBS to conduct leading-edge research and participate in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation, geography, and environmental science.
    • SDG 15 – Sustainability and biodiversity initiatives are core to the mandate of Queen’s Bader College (UK). The campus acts as a living laboratory, where students collect samples and perform experiments on the rich variety of ecosystems and land forms that are present.

    Learn more about Queen’s University’s performance in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings and contributions to the SDGs.

    The Isabel announces its 2023-24 season

    The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University has announced its 2023-24 season which includes more than 30 events featuring local and internationally-renowned artists and creators.

    “Our programming for the coming season is truly exciting and highlights a range of diverse voices and stories,” says Gordon E. Smith, the Isabel’s interim director.

    Highlights of the 2023-24 season include Trey McLaughlin & The Sounds of Zamar Gospel Choir, Grammy Award-winning tabla player Zakir Hussain, Manchester Collective with cellist Abel Selaocoe, the Esme Quartet with pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, and a season opening concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and violinist James Ehnes. Other featured artists include a voice recital with soprano Camilla Tilling and pianist Emanuel Ax, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, a holiday concert by Kingston vocalist Miss Emily, solo piano recitals featuring Janina Fialkowska, Tony Siqi Yun, and Angela Cheng, and more.

    In the fall, the Isabel will offer a program of Indigenous performances and events dedicated to Truth and Reconciliation titled Listenings. The programming includes an evening of music and stories with Dene contemporary roots duo Sechile Sedare, a concert with Wabanaki musician and activist, Mali Obomsawin, a free workshop of storytelling for children, an art exhibit of a curated replica of a residential school classroom titled Faded Memories of Home by Tom Wilson, and an art exhibit to raise awareness of waste(s) in Pangnirtung, Nunavut titled The Art and Waste in Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), created in collaboration with Inuit artists and micky renders.

    The Isabel will also bring to the stage two Bader & Overton Canadian Cello Competition 2020 alumni – a concert with Cheng2 Duo featuring cellist and winner Bryan Cheng alongside pianist Silvie Cheng, and another featuring cellist and semifinalist Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy with pianist Jean-Michel Dubé.

    In addition to its season, the Isabel welcomes the National Youth Orchestra of Canada back for their month-long summer residency, which includes open-to-the-public chamber music concerts in June and July, and a full concert program on July 14.

    “We are looking forward to welcoming everyone to share in what promises to be a rich and amazing 2023/24 season,” Dr. Smith says.

    Details on programming are contained in the Isabel’s 2023/24 season brochure.

    Most programming in the Jennifer Velva Bernstein Performance Hall will be streamed for free through the Isabel Digital Concert Hall.

    Subscriptions for the 2023-24 season are on sale starting June 2. Single tickets are on sale starting July 24. For tickets and more information, visit queensu.ca/theisabel.

    2023-24 SEASON

    *Asterisk denotes the artist’s Isabel debut.

    VIRTUOSI SOLOIST SERIES

    Eve Egoyan and David Rokeby on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Camilla Tilling* and Emanuel Ax on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m., Tony Siqi Yun* on Friday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m., Janina Fialkowska on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 2:30 p.m., Angela Cheng on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2:30 p.m., and Zakir Hussain* on Wednesday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m.

    ENSEMBLE SERIES

    Chanticleer* on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m., Capella Cracoviensis* on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 7:30 p.m., Esme Quartet with Yekwon Sunwoo* on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m., Pavel Haas Quartet* on Saturday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m., Manchester Collective* with Abel Selaocoe* on Wednesday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m., and ARC Ensemble on Sunday, April 21, at 2:30 p.m.

    BADER & OVERTON COMPETITION ALUMNI

    Cheng2 Duo on Sunday, Oct. 29, at 2:30 p.m., and Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy with Jean-Michel Dubé* on Sunday, Jan. 28, at 2:30 p.m.

    LISTENINGS

    Faded Memories of Home art exhibit by Tom Wilson from Sept. 11-28, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Leela Gilday* and Jay Gilday*: Sechile Sedare on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m., Mali Obomsawin* on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m., Indigenous Storytelling for children on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 11 a.m., and The Art and Waste in Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung) art exhibit by Oleepika Nashalik, David Kilabuk, Talia Metuq, Malaya Pitsiulak, Madeleine Aasivak Qumuatuk, and micky renders from Oct. 23-Nov. 3, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

    ARTIST SPOTLIGHT CONCERTS

    National Youth Orchestra of Canada on Friday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m., National Arts Centre Orchestra

    with James Ehnes on Friday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., Celebrating the Holidays with Miss Emily on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m., Gryphon Trio Echo: Memories of the World on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m., Trey McLaughlin & The Sounds of Zamar Gospel Choir* on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m., Jazz at Lincoln Centre Presents: Sing & Swing* on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m., Gryphon Trio Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time on Wednesday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m., and RKY Camp Summer Album Release Concert on Friday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m.

    SPECIAL EVENTS

    Art For All balloted fundraiser from Oct. 10-14, Alfred and Isabel Bader Lecture in European Art: Encounter as Author in Early Modern Images From the Atlantic World on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m., and RasberryJAN* children’s workshop Sounds Like Family: A Musical Celebration on Saturday, March 9, at 11 a.m.

    Applications open for a range of funding sources

    The Provost’s Committee for the Promotion of the Arts has opened applications for a range of funding sources, with opportunities not only in the arts, but also in addressing critical issues such as racism, equity, and justice across disciplines. These funding sources provide support for a wide range of academic and professional endeavors at Queen’s.

    Researchers, scholars, and innovators are invited to apply prior to the April 28, 2023 deadline.

    Robert Sutherland Visitorship

    The purpose of the Robert Sutherland Visitorship is to enable dialogue and inspire action around race-related, equity, and justice issues in order to shape our citizens of tomorrow. Robert Sutherland Visitors are expected to deliver a public lecture and to be available during the visit to meet formally and informally with appropriate segments of the Queen's and Kingston communities. Robert Sutherland visitors come from many disciplines; a list of past visitors can be found on the committee’s website.

    George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund

    The purpose of the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund is to provide grants for the stimulation of the arts at Queen's University. In accordance with the wishes of the benefactor, Agnes Etherington, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Art, the Department of Music (now Dan School of Drama and Music) and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the fund is specifically intended to support public performances and exhibitions for the benefit of the Queen's and broader Kingston communities.

    Rosen Lecture Series

    The purpose of the Rosen Lecture Series is to enable the wider community to better understand the living and vital tradition of Judaism, its relationship to other religious traditions and its role in the development of contemporary civilizations, and to explore the historical role played by Jews and Jewish thought. Speakers in the Irving and Regina Rosen Lecture Series will be noted figures in the field of Jewish thought and tradition, who, having been recommended by the subcommittee, will be invited by the principal to come to Queen's to deliver lectures directed toward a broad audience of generally educated people. A list of past speakers is available on the committee’s website.

    Brockington Visitorship

    The Brockington Visitorship provides funds to support public lectures, performances, speaker series, scholarly events, residencies, exhibitions, and media presentations on campus. Preference will be given to proposals that support a public lecture. All members of the Queen's community are welcome to submit a nomination to the Brockington Visitorship. A list of previous visitors can be found on the committee’s website.

    Chancellor Dunning Trust Visitorship

    The purpose of the Chancellor Dunning Trust Visitorship is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the supreme importance of the dignity, freedom, and responsibility of the individual person in human society. The Dunning Lecturer is expected to deliver a public lecture and to be available during the visit to meet formally and informally with appropriate segments of the Queen's and Kingston communities. A list of previous lectures can be found on the committee’s website.

    Further information on application guidelines and submission processes can be found on the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Promotion of the Arts webpage.

    The Agnes receives new support from federal government

    The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is receiving $100,000 in support from the federal government, it was announced on Monday.

    A total of $251,289 from the Tourism Relief Fund will support five recipients as part of an effort to help small tourism businesses and organizations. Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen made the announcement at The Agnes on behalf of Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

    The non-repayable contribution to the Agnes will go towards producing the first Canadian performance of “The Assembly” by internationally-acclaimed video artist and filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa in collaboration with local artists and businesses in Kingston. “The Assembly” is a living, evolving performance piece created by Saro-Wiwa in collaboration with local audience-participants to share and express her findings on African sociality, botanicals, spirituality, and science. The event includes a performance lecture, film screening, silent tastings, sound baths, storytelling, academic talks, and food.

    “Our government recognizes that tourism is vitally important to the vibrancy and economic health of communities across southern Ontario,” Minster Tassi says. “I am committed to helping businesses find new and innovative ways to recover and thrive once again. Investments through the Tourism Relief Fund help ensure that the region’s tourism sector will be well-positioned to welcome back visitors today and in the years to come.”

    Also receiving support are Kingston WritersFest, City of Kingston, Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area, and The Blue Moose B & B Inc.

    Agnes Reimagined comes alive in new renderings

    In 2026, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre will emerge as the largest public university-affiliated museum in Canada.

    Exterior composition of Agnes Reimagined (concept only), showing the new curvilinear addition, left, in conversation with the heritage Etherington House (right). (Rendering by Studio Sang courtesy of KPMB Architects)
    Exterior composition of Agnes Reimagined (concept only), showing the new curvilinear addition, left, in conversation with the heritage Etherington House (right). (Rendering by Studio Sang courtesy of KPMB Architects)

    The transformation of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre is beginning to take shape.

    The galleries are currently closed, as more than 17,000 objects in Agnes’s collection are being packed and moved off site, and after a year of community-engagement, two architectural renderings have been released, giving the Queen’s community its first look at a transformed art centre.

    Director and Curator Emelie Chhangur commends Queen’s for supporting Agnes’s commitment to a community-engaged design process and a close collaboration with the architectural team comprised of the internationally renowned Toronto-based firm KPMB Architects, led by architect Bruce Kuwabara and Indigenous Affairs consultant Georgina Riel.

    “By enacting the values of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigenization and Accessibility (EDIIA) in the very making of Agnes Reimagined, we ensure that we truly transform Agnes, from the ground up, and demonstrate Queen’s commitments to honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action,” Chhangur says.

    In 2026, Agnes will emerge as the largest public university-affiliated museum in this country and a champion of museological change where Indigenous and Western world views sit side by side as equals. 

    Agnes Reimagined would not be possible without the leadership and philanthropic support of the late Alfred Bader (Sc'45, Arts'46, MSc'47, LLD'86), Isabel Bader (LLD’07), and Bader Philanthropies, Inc., who are longtime supporters of Queen’s and the arts. Bader Philanthropies is the lead donor with a total US$75 million transformational gift. The Bader Collection at Agnes is made up of more than 500 works of art and is and the most comprehensive collection of authenticated paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn and his circle in any institution within Canada.

    “Alfred Bader envisioned Queen’s having the finest art museum of any university in Canada,” says Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand (Artsci’94). “The transformative gift from the Baders will build on the initial vision of Dr. Bader and position Queen’s as a premier destination for education and research in the visual arts. Once complete, this world-class art museum will be a tremendous gift to Queen’s, Kingston, and art lovers everywhere.” 

    Agnes Reimagined involves renovating the historic Etherington House and transforming it into a live-in artist residency and community-facing cultural hub. Construction of a new three-floor configuration to the art centre supports a 200 per cent increase in exhibition and alternative programming spaces for curatorial experimentation and public programming and engagement; the first-ever Indigenous self-determination spaces for the appropriate care, ceremony, and access by Indigenous communities of their ancestors and cultural belongings currently residing at Agnes; and new art study spaces, technical art history and art conservation labs — all of which reimagine the entangled civic, social and pedagogical role of a 21st century university museum. 

    “Agnes Reimagined is slowly inching toward other museum temporalities, atmospheres, and attitudes to help us erode systems of categorization and separation, transform institutional limitations that hold onto the past and gatekeep the future, and take seriously what really is at stake to ensure the museums of the future are alive, nimble, and poised to inhabit the world as it is rightfully changing,” Chhangur says. “To change museum culture, we must first change its architectures. I believe it is only within the experimental milieu of the university museum that this kind of radical transformation can take hold.”

    An inside view of Agnes Reimagined
    A ground floor concept shows how Agnes will be transformed into a social space that is permeable, flexible, and welcoming. (Rendering by Studio Sang courtesy of KPMB Architects.)

    The new building will see advanced art teaching and research labs for the art conservation program and enhanced object-based learning for the Department of Art History & Art Conservation leading to greater collaboration between the department and museum. It will create new opportunities for groundbreaking technical art research and experiential art-based learning for art students, as well as a range of other academic disciplines, including engineering, business, health sciences, humanities, and physical sciences. This contributes to the university’s strategic goals by placing a greater emphasis on integrating research into the student experience, strengthening Queen’s presence globally and embedding Queen’s in the community.

    Art History and Art Conservation Department Head Norman Vorano says the new Agnes will enhance education as students spend more time in the gallery doing hands-on learning, thanks to access to more study spaces and labs in close proximity to the art centre’s vast collections.

    “The building is going to fundamentally change the way we study art and art conservation in this country,” Dr. Vorano says. “It gives our professors an opportunity to work with some of the best undergraduate and graduate students using the most advanced equipment in the most innovative teaching lab in North America — with the best university art collection within arm’s reach.”  

    Agnes’s community-engaged design process continues through talking and sharing circles throughout 2023 as the team enters the design phase of the project. Construction is set to begin in spring 2024 and the new building to open in 2026.

    Visit the Agnes Reimagined website for more information. 

    Data that helps define Kingston

    Researchers create a unique, regional, and accessible website that highlights key community information for residents in the Greater Kingston Area.

    Aerial view of Queen's University Campus
    Aerial View of Queen's University Campus

    For the past two years, researchers from Queen’s University’s Department of Geography and Planning have been meeting with municipal partners to investigate the community’s resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flowing from this collaboration, they have now created and unveiled a new interactive dashboard, called Kingston IN Focus, that highlights a range of community indicators, including information about the local economy, employment, environment, housing, and cultural heritage.

    “Evidence-based decision making is the hallmark of a leading city. The launch of the community data dashboard will be a critical knowledge resource as our economy emerges from the pandemic and as we use the data insights to inform greater resilience for our collective future,” says Craig Desjardins, Director, Strategy, Innovation, and Partnerships, City of Kingston.

    The online platform allows community members to delve deeper into the themes, and compare local, provincial, and national data, and relies on advanced computing techniques to perform automatic updates whenever new data becomes available, allowing site visitors to reference meaningful information when exploring changes in the landscape of the Kingston area over time.

    “We had been looking at this idea of a website through the lens of key indicators like the environment, housing, and public transit,” says Betsy Donald, a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning. “I had been working with Shauna Brail, an associate professor at the Institute for Management and Innovation, University of Toronto Mississauga. She was researching the impact of the pandemic on cities. Our team decided to learn from that, dig deeper, and tap into the Queen’s Centre for Advanced Computing to do some of the behind-the-scenes work and create the Kingston IN Focus dashboard website.”

    Carolyn DeLoyde, a post-doctoral fellow and adjunct assistant professor with the Department of Geography and Planning helped to develop the look, feel, and functionality of the website.

    “It is our regional visualizations that make our dashboard so unique. We have pie charts, line charts, and maps that are customizable, so there is something for every user. Hopefully, we can provide some benefit and help support data driven policy development, while encouraging community participation,” says Dr. DeLoyde.

    “The data behind the chart is available” says Fernando Hernandez of the Centre for Advanced Computing. “Every chart has a button you can click on and contains information. It allows people to verify the data for themselves.”

    Information contained on the dashboard also includes links to Kingston-centric research related to dashboard themes. Data sources for all community indicators are provided so policy makers and community members can explore additional information, independent of the dashboard.

    “What I love about this is that it’s accessible to non-experts,” says Jaime McKenzie-Naish, managing director of the Kingston and Area Association of Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites. “Having it in one location is absolutely brilliant. I already have used it to write a grant application. I needed to know exactly what the census numbers of the population of Kingston was, which, in other previous years I have found through much hard effort and looking.”

    The project has been a collaborative effort with the City of Kingston, Kingston Economic Development Corporation, Kingston and Area Association of Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites (KAM), the Centre for Advanced Computing (CAC), Office of Indigenous Initiatives at Queen’s University and the Department of Geography and Planning.

    The website has been up and running since last fall, but Jan. 25 marked the official launch of the dashboard. Media were invited to attend a virtual webinar to learn more about the project, and experts were on hand to answer questions.

    The creation of the dashboard was supported by Mitacs through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship, and draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant (SSHRC).

    Visitors are also encouraged to fill out the community engagement survey at the bottom of the website to reflect on their experience and suggest new data where they see value.

    More information on the dashboard can be found in the introduction video.

    Annual report highlights commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals

    The university has released a social impact report, highlighting its activities in research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship that support advancing the UN SDGs.

    [Report Cover: Queen's contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Advancing social impact | 2021-2022]
    Read the report: Queen's contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Advancing social impact | 2021-2022 [PDF Report 10 KB]

    The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a roadmap for how we can work together to create a better world for people and the planet. Queen’s alignment with the SDGs reflects the university’s vision that our community will solve the world’s most significant challenges with their intellectual curiosity, passion to achieve, and commitment to collaborate.

    For the second year, Queen’s has released a social impact report, highlighting the university’s activities in research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship that support advancing the UN SDGs. A key focus of the 2021-2022 report is recognizing the efforts made by Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni to confront COVID-19 and its unprecedented and unpredictable set of challenges.

    Queen’s contributions to advancing social impact in our local, national, and international communities has been recognized by the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, the only global performance tables that assess universities against the UN SDGs. In both 2021 and 2022, Queen’s was ranked among the top 10 universities globally in the THE Impact Rankings.

    This year’s report references a wide variety of Queen’s programs, partnerships, and infrastructure that align with the values of the SDGs. A few examples include the work of the Campus and Community Engagement Sustainability Sub-Working Group to advance SDG 13: Climate Action, Queen’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSe) student-run organization which is advancing SDG 5: Gender Equality to promote and encourage women to pursue STEM studies, and the launch of the Graduate Inclusivity Fellows initiative aligned with SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities where graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are contributing to strategies and programs to improve the learning experience related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity.

    Housed on the Advancing Social Impact website, in addition to the report, users can find further information on key initiatives and engage with additional images and video that illustrate the community’s action and impact.

    To learn more about Queen’s commitment to the SDGs and to read the report, visit the website

    A musical message of support

    The ‘We Stand with Ukraine’ concert is being held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts to raise funds for humanitarian aid.

    Canta Arya School for Strings

    The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is hosting an exciting event to raise funds for humanitarian aid for those affected by the war in Ukraine. 

    On Dec. 8, more than 100 Kingston professional musicians and youth ensembles, including the Kingston Symphony, DAN School of Music faculty, PALENAI piano duo, Bridge Wolak Duo, Jan LeClair, and guest Ukrainian soprano, Nataliia Temnyk will be featured. The Maky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will welcome the audience in the colourful Pryvit dance. Young musicians representing Canta Arya School for Strings, Kingston Youth Orchestra, Cantabile Youth Singers and soloist Mathieu Roberge will also perform in the concert, which supports the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Fund through the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

    Photography of Ukraine, Ukrainian art, and powerful images from the war by frontline photojournalists will add a multi-dimensional element to the evening.

    All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Fund of the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief committee – a joint partnership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canada-Ukraine FoundationThose who are unable to attend the concert but still wish to donate can donate online, and are asked to quote “Kingston concert” under the ‘private message’ section.

     The benefit is being organized by Drs. Joy Innis and Adrienne Shannon, who have taught as adjunct professors at the Dan School of Drama and Music and were responsible for the creation of the Music & Digital Media program at St. Lawrence College. For the past several months they have been working on a concert to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. They say as soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, their colleagues, fellow musicians, and local youth ensembles jumped on board.

    “The number of Kingston musicians involved – more than half of them youth – show how the generations are coming together for one common cause. That really is the heart of the event,” says Dr. Shannon.

    Dr. Shannon says interest for the concert comes not only from the musical community, but from those who have experienced the conflict firsthand, adding “there will be many new Ukrainian nationals in the audience, and we get calls every day from others.”

     The two-hour concert takes place Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $39 or $10 for students and can be purchased at the door or online through the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

    The concert will also be livestreamed.

    For more information, visit the Dan School of Music and Drama at Queen’s University website.

    Woman King is set in Benin but filmed in South Africa - in the process it erases real people’s struggles

    Hollywood undermines Africa’s struggles, creating a false impression of the continent to please western viewers.

    A scene from the new movie Woman King, with three female warriors overlooking the ocean.
    While the story told in The Woman King took place in what is now Benin, the film was shot in South Africa. Image courtesy (Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

    The latest film by director Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Woman King, is about a legendary all-woman African army in the 1800s, the Amazons of Dahomey. It takes place in what is today the Republic of Benin in west Africa. It wasn’t filmed in Benin, but in South Africa, in the KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces using locations that look like west Africa.

    The film has had an overwhelmingly positive reception, but some critics have cautioned against ignoring history in favour of crowd-pleasing storytelling. I would like to draw attention to the film’s use of the African landscape, as Hollywood tells new stories while ignoring the struggles of the present.

    I am a curator of African art in Kingston at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. I arrived in Canada from Cape Town around the time The Woman King was being filmed in the coastal town of Kleinmond in the Overstrand, where I’d lived with my family. I was struck by how the town was depicted.

    The film uses Kleinmond as the site of great battles that glorify Africa’s history. But the town’s actual history is one of struggle and the oppression of black people that lives on to this day. The Woman King shows a pristine version of Kleinmond, digitally altering the landscape to erase black lives and settlements.

    Cheating one film location for another is common practice. Film infrastructure exists in the Western Cape and there are financial incentives that attract international film makers. Not only is the natural diversity of South Africa appealing, it’s also marketable.

    But film locations in Africa are often used as a generic Hollywood backdrop or African cities are easily traded. For example, Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone and was filmed in Cape Town. More recently Avengers: Age of Ultron’s battle scenes played out in downtown Johannesburg.

    These distortions are part of the global film industry, but they can also lead to a distortion of a continent and its history. The Woman King’s use of Kleinmond’s setting may seem like just a technical gimmick, but it points to a bigger issue: even when telling African stories, Hollywood reimagines the true history and geography of the continent to serve western audiences.

    Kleinmond

    Kleinmond bears witness to apartheid town planning. During apartheid, white minority rulers implemented a policy of separate development, and allocated racial groups to different living areas.

    The original town was settled from the 1850s by fisher families who made their living from the Atlantic Ocean. In the 1950s, when it became part of a “white group area”, Kleinmond was bulldozed by the apartheid government, its people forcibly removed to Protea Dorp on the mountainside near the town dump. A letter by a local fisher, Petrus Johannes Fredericks, attests to growing up in Kleinmond harbour and to his family’s forced removal. He writes about the ongoing struggles to secure scarce government fishing quotas.

    Retelling Africa and cinematic erasure

    It’s ironic that Kleinmond was the backdrop for The Woman King’s battle scenes, and appropriated into a story of a glorious, fictitious African past. Frequent violent protests in the area show that the real life struggle for the ocean and the land is still underway. During recent protests for better housing, burning tyres were positioned around an area called Perdekop and it became a true battleground for its inhabitants.

    A moody still of an old port with ships approaching in a rough sea and the sun breaking through the clouds.
    The port of Ouidah in Benin was filmed in South Africa’s Western Cape. (Image courtesy Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

    In a similar way, Kleinmond’s complexities and its embattled people are erased for the purposes of tourism. According to local authorities, the natural beauty and biodiversity are the “finest example of mountain fynbos in the Western Cape and (the Kleinmond biosphere is) a world-renowned World Heritage Site”. But this heritage has yet to yield enough sustainable jobs, and for many Kleinmond men, the illegal trade in endangered abalone is one of only a few forms of employment.

    The white South African art world also has countless examples of black erasure and distorted storytelling. The apartheid state’s favoured painter JH Pierneef painted empty, detailed landscapes of South Africa that were hung in government buildings across the country. He never showed the conflicted human life inhabiting those landscapes, erasing black people, the original inhabitants. Irma Stern, favoured by white liberals, preferred painting scenes in the Bantustans or black reserves of South Africa to show an “authentic” African life. She ignored the everyday trauma of living under apartheid to capture what she considered the African ideal.

    Pristine Africa

    The Woman King continues this elided narrative by presenting Africa as largely uninhabited and pristine. But what does it mean when the real, battle-worn Perdekop is not acknowledged and becomes part of an elaborate computer graphic of a white settlement instead? Or a graphic of fictional houses is overlaid on the Overhills settlement?

    As a curator, I think about which stories we tell in the present, which stories will endure, but most importantly what shape our collective responsibility takes. Kleinmond is close to my heart, which is perhaps why I’m especially troubled by this new kind of historical erasure, as the African landscape is digitally emptied and its people ignored so that its image can be used as the canvas for a redemptive story.

    All this is not to say that The Woman King does not carefully counter harmful African stereotypes; it does. It presents African women as strong, healthy and independent, Africans as the inheritors of a rich cultural tradition and Africans as majestic purveyors of lost ideals. But at what cost does this fictional black redemption come?

    In erasing the past, the film undermines Africa’s struggles, creating a false impression of the continent to please western viewers.The Conversation

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    Qanita Lilla, Associate Curator Arts of Africa, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

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