They Forgot That We Were Seeds, curated by Kosisochukwu Nnebe  

  09 February – 23 August 2020


Featuring the work of KC Adams, Deanna Bowen, Roxana Farrell, Bushra Junaid, Amy Malbeuf, Meryl McMaster, Cheyenne Sundance and Katherine Takpannie, They Forgot That We Were Seeds uses foodways, as curator Kosisochukwu Nnebe writes, to re-imagine the history of Canada as a settler-colonial state, placing Black and Indigenous women at the centre of an effort to construct a counter-archive.

Sugar, salt and cod take on layered meanings as the histories of labour, displacement and adaptation they contain are excavated. Touching on issues of land, migration, and food justice and sovereignty, the exhibition offers a glimpse into decolonial and sustainable futurities rooted in Indigenous worldviews; here, Black and Indigenous women are more than just the seeds that history has tried to bury—they represent deep roots and a harvest more plentiful than we could ever imagine.

“In Katiniakusii (Inuktitut for “several of us coming together”), Katherine Takpannie, an Ottawa-based Inuk artist, documents a gathering of Black and Indigenous women and two-spirit people that took place in Ottawa in November 2019. At the nexus of public programming and performance, these photographs bear witness to intimate moments around the sharing of food that enabled new ways of being with one another rooted in indigenous worldviews and practices from both Turtle Island and West Africa.

Images of a qulliq – an oil lamp made of soapstone and traditionally used by Inuit women to cook for their families and create warmth and energy within the home – speak to the role of women as life carriers and the flame keepers of the home. That the qulliq was used to cook bannock for this dinner speaks to the expansion of who can be considered part of one’s family and with whom this light and warmth can be shared. This broadening of the concepts of home, welcoming and care was further cemented by the sharing of bissap, a traditional West African drink made using hibiscus, a plant native to the region, and shared with family and friends as a form of hospitality.

Underlying this event are questions requiring further exploration: what does it mean to understand Indigenous and Black people as indigenous to their own lands and displaced from it in very different ways? What are the ways in which we can hold space together?

Cognizant of the tense balance between visibility and voyeurism, the gathering was a private moment shared here as a glimpse into otherwise possibilities. In this gathering, as in the broader exhibition, Black and Indigenous women are more than just the seeds that history has tried to bury; they represent deep roots and a harvest more plentiful than we could ever imagine.” - Kosisochukwu Nnebe

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