“5 Artists 1 Love” : Showcasing Black Creative Brilliance

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Equal parts tenacity, strength, and vulnerability, 5 Artists 1 Love in its eighteenth year is an annual exhibition that showcases the brilliance and uniqueness of African-Canadian artists. This year’s exhibition, curated by Darren W. Jordan, at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) features the works of Macha Abdallah, Anthony Chinedu Ezeifedi, Martin Kwame, Miguel Matthews, and Lorell Diane Whittingham. The riveting works by these artists take their audience on a diverse journey of personal experiences and what it means to be Black and Canadian today, while connecting with each other in interesting and provocative ways. 

Take for example the contrasts between Miguel Matthews’ street art style work and the vibrancy of Macha Abdallah’s pop art-esque portraits. While the former deals in a muted but pronounced monochromatic palette, Abdallah’s work tenderly and boldly highlights the cultural significance of hair in Black communities with rich hues of pink, yellow, and blue, making the juxtaposition of these two artists striking and impactful. Additionally, Matthews’ Astronaut (2019), which takes a otherworldly departure from his monochromatic work also incorporates glittery sparks of blues, pinks, and yellows that connect it to Abdallah’s colourful triptych.

Intersecting Matthews and Abdallah’s works are Anthony Chinedu Ezeifedi palpable charcoal sketches that are wondrously engaging and creatively expansive, punctuating this part of the exhibition as the one that explores the roots of Black Canadian Identity from the familial to the collective at large through colour and themes of connectedness through difference. 

The other side of the exhibition features works by Lorelle Diane Whittingham and Martin Kwame and deals with themes of love and affirmation. Whittingham’s works are as playful as they are didactically poignant. Her mixed media sculpture Disco Baby (2022) with its bright pink luminescent center and glittery disco balls is visually enchanting and instagramable. But her works, particularly her self affirming Higher Self-Portrait (20223) acknowledges issues plaguing Black communities such as mass incarceration and anti-Black racism. In her self portrait, Whittingham appears as a saint with a crown of cotton flowers. In her left hand she holds a klansman’s hood and noose set ablaze, perhaps by the power of her self affirmation. Surrounding her are affirmations including “I am safe,” “I belong,” and I am loved,” sentiments that ground the viewer in the power of the portrait.  

Adjacent to Whittingham’s works are Martin Kwame’s photographs of Edmonton that reveal a stunning edge to the city’s beauty. His series, EdmontonThrough My Eyes (2023), explores  Edmonton’s cityscape from the bright perspective of Kwame, who, though new to the city, captures its beatific essence. 

The 5A1L exhibition is more than just an expression of black creativity. It showcases the heart of Black communities, foregrounding the humanity and stunning brilliance of African Canadian culture. It’s about resistance and dreams. 

5 Artist 1 Love | until March 3

Art Gallery of Alberta | Sir Winston Churchill Square

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