This past month, in our city, as well as in the rest of North America, we celebrated the culture and people of the African Diaspora as part of Black History Month.
From an eclectic array of museum exhibitions to live performances, lectures and fashion events, a plethora of activities had been designed to bring forth all the exciting activities Montrealers had crafted for this special occasion. This year, however, we saw a strong focus on a burgeoning and prolific fashion and visual art scene.
At the 2nd edition of the Miss Africa Gala Montréal pageant, it was all about beauty and brains with some of the most beautiful Afro-Canadian young women. The first installment of Black Expo Design, held at the Loft Hotel was a total success. Featuring works by designers like Helmer, Ralph Leroy and upcoming local talents like the new accessories brand Coloré, the event for a one of a kind fashion and design rendez-vous.
The chair of New York University’s prestigious Department of Photography and Imaging within Tisch School, Professor Deborah Willis stopped by Concordia University to talk beauty, black beauty!
Her groundbreaking book »Posing Beauty » was at the center of the lecture professor Willis gave in front of a packed room. The 234 pages book offers a stunning review of the representation of black beauty by African-American themselves and other photographers since the 1890’s. During the lecture, Willis explained the genesis of the project and of most her work, which was born while she was a university student. Seeing that there were no African-American photographers and photographs mentioned in her textbooks, she followed one of her professors’ recommendations and decided to write a term paper on the subject. More than twenty books later, and Willis is still one of the leading authorities in African-American photography and the history of photography as a whole.
Home of the other highlights included “Legends of African Football” a photograpgy exhibit held at La Maison de L’Afrique, which focused on some of Africa’s biggest soccer stars of the past 5 decades; an intimate concert series entitled Afrophilya. Taking place at ‘’Le Piano Rouge’’ in Old Montreal, the series featured international performers like soul singer Jose James as well as local acts like Montreal’s ultra-talented songstress Akua.
However, the end of the month of February didn’t mark the end of the festivities. Until April 30, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Sacred Africa II, a stunning exhibit featuring traditional arts and artifacts from West and Central Africa from three different collections the Redpath Museum, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Cirque du Soleil’s founder Guy Laliberté.
Also, from April 27 to May 6, the 28th edition of the Vues d’Afrique Film Festival will once again bring the crème de la crème of African and Caribbean cinema. Every year, for about two weeks, a selection of more than a 100 films is presented throughout the city, bringing together film lovers and connoisseurs, young and old.
As every year, the celebrations and activities have captivated many but this year a certain je-ne-sais-quoi made Black History Month even more special, maybe because of the leap year magic!