Reagan Kennedy responds to Edward Curtis

This is an excerpt from Reagan’s full response, which can be seen off of the lobby at the gallery.


It is important to consider that at the time of Curtis’ career Indigenous populations throughout the continent had already suffered the severe effects of colonialism. It is because of this that many believe there is some validity to Curtis’ claim to be photographing a peoples who were “vanishing”. However, this language has also served to promote ideas that Indigenous people do not exist, and often prevents non-Indigenous peoples from really seeing us. Curtis was also known for his techniques of editing his images, often removing signs of modern technologies from his Indigenous subjects to promote ideas of primitivism. Additionally, he was known for stealing sacred items from communities which he would then travel with and place on his subjects in other territories.

Outside of these controversial and problematic components of his work, many of us are still drawn to these images. I am drawn to Picking Blueberries because of these complexities, and because the image appears more candid than some of Curtis’ more obviously staged works. I feel a sense of calmness and humanity when I look at this photograph. Due to the effects of colonisation and colonial policies, many of us feel disconnected and deterritorialized from our communities and traditional ways of knowing. These ways of knowing, such as the berry harvest taking place in this image, reflect ways of knowing that strengthened and maintained our relationship to the land, to our families and communities. Some of us learned and still carry these ways of knowing, some of us are mourning the loss of these practices and are trying to learn.

By reflecting upon Picking Blueberries from the RMG Permanent Collection I hope visitors take the opportunity to revisit how we have been seen and unseen, but also how we have been disconnected and how we can reconnect.

-Reagan Kennedy

RMG Fridays: Speak Your truth

By Stephanie Pollard

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and
not starting.” – The Buddha

February’s RMG Fridays touted #BlackExcellence as artists shared their perspectives on what it
means to belong.

Partnering with the Durham Black Educators Network (DBEN), the gallery became a capsule of
memories that showed how families came from various islands in the Caribbean to Oshawa,
and how their experiences have a solid place in Durham Region.

“It’s really about intercultural dialogue. We want people who don’t typically have exposure to
have an awareness of the value that Black culture brings to the community, so that everybody
can understand and be a part of celebrating (this) history”, explained DBEN Chair Eleanor

According to the Library and Archives of the Government of Canada website, Black people have
been in Canada from as early as 1608, but the Immigration Act (1910 – 1967) prevented
persons deemed ‘undesirable’ from immigrating to the country, leaving a drop in migrants from
parts of Africa or the Caribbean until 1955, when the West Indian Domestic Scheme allowed
single women living in the Caribbean to work in Canada as domestic help for one year in order
to achieve immigrant status. While there is no information about the first Black families who
arrived in Oshawa, there was plenty of opportunity to get into a bit of personal history.

The Gallery A housed momentos that ranged from placemats to wood sculptures, lace
handkerchiefs, and a wedding dress – complete with a veil and gloves – that all told stories of
those who sought better living for their families, and the cultures they brought with them.

Meanwhile, upstairs guests sat down to enjoy the company of Michael St. George and Friends
ensemble, where music and dub poetry explored speaking one’s truth.

“It’s wonderful to be here…I feel like a complete circle,” Michael said as he led right into various
songs, poems and rhythms, with everyone in (timid) participation. The Durham School of Ballet
and Contemporary Dance (DSBCD) also featured performances that showcased pride in Black
culture with a duet to Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair , and a solo piece called Bloodline .

Embracing diversity means opening our arms to a past that doesn’t let us get away with an easy
narrative, nor does it allow us to live in shame. If we can speak our truths, and acknowledge the
truths of others, we inch ourselves closer to equality.

Join us for another RMG Fridays on March 2, Sugar Moon, at 7 p.m.!