Of Africa

Of Africa is a multiplatform and multiyear project aimed at rethinking historical and contemporary representations of Africa.

About the Project

Of Africa stems from an original idea of independent curators Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine. From 2013 to 2018, Crooks and Fontaine have been working with ROM curator Silvia Forni to develop a platform that would enable a more open and dynamic presentation of the diversity and creativity of the African continent. With Of Africa, the curators will present and promote historical and contemporary cultural and artistic production in Africa and its Diasporas to highlight issues that impact the present and evoke the potential of an infinite future.

Julie Crooks

Julie Crooks is the Assistant Curator, Photography at the AGO, and her first exhibition in that role was Free Black North (April 29 – August 20, 2017). She received her PhD in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where her research focused on historical photography in Sierra Leone, West Africa and the diaspora. Prior to joining the AGO, Crooks curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions in Toronto, including No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto in February 2017, co-curated with Reese de Guzman (co-organized by the Ryerson Image Centre and BAND). Julie is also the co-curator for the Of Africa project at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, where she was awarded the Rebanks Postdoctoral Fellowship to research the various engagements of Black and African audiences with the ROM’s African Gallery, and the photographic history of Blacks in Canada.

Dominique Fontaine

Dominique Fontaine is a curator and Founding Director of aPOSteRIORI, a non-profit curatorial platform – researching, documenting, developing, producing and facilitating innovation in diverse contemporary art practices. Fontaine graduated in visual arts and arts administration from the University of Ottawa (Canada), and completed De Appel Curatorial Programme (Amsterdam, the Netherlands).

Her ongoing research: Evidence: Inter-documentation, surveys Contemporary Visual art practices by Black artists, curators, critics, theorists and art historians as a response to a gap concerning the accessibility of updated material on diverse artistic propositions from Africa and its Diaspora. Her curatorial projects include and- in. the light of this.______ Dineo Seshee Bopape, 2017, Darling Foundry, Montréal; “Images, Imageries, Imaginaires” – International Photography Exhibition of the World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, December 2010, Dakar (Senegal); “Forms and topographies: African Cityscape in flux”, 2009, Thessaloniki Biennale (Greece); “Moshekwa Langa: Unlimited”, Art Star Video Biennial, August 2005, Ottawa (Canada). Dominique is also the co-curator for the Of Africa project at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

Silvia Forni

Dr. Silvia Forni is Curator of African Arts and Cultures in the Royal Ontario Museum's (ROM) Department of World Cultures. She is also Associate Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Forni's research focuses on tensions, dynamics, and feedback that inspires contemporary creators in Africa and the diaspora and the way art challenges the stereotypical constructions of the Western imagination.

At the ROM she has curated several partial gallery reinstallations and exhibitions. Her most recent exhibition project have been Isaac Julien: Other Destinies (2017); Art. Honour and Ridicule: Asafo Flags From Southern Ghana (2016); and Worn: Shaping Black Feminine Identity (2014). Since 2013, together with Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine, she is responsible for the Of Africa project, a multiplatform project aimed to support a sustained and long-term promotion of the cultural and creative diversity of Africa and its diaspora through an engagement with the collections in the museum and in dialogue with artists and creators active today.

She recently edited with Christopher B. Steiner the award-winning volume Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: ROM (2015) and co-authored with Doran H. Ross Art, Honor, and Ridicule: Fante Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana (2017).

Past Events/Archive

ROM Speaks: Zong!
April 10, 2018

Renowned Caribbean Canadian writer NourbeSe Philip delivers a moving performance of a selection of works from her recent poetry cycle based on the legal decision, Gregson v. Gilbert, at the end of the eighteenth century, related to the murder of Africans on board the slave ship Zong.

When Blue Falls In to the Ocean
March 4, 2018

Heart of a Poet, An Afternoon with Afua Cooper
February 11, 2018

Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art
January 27, 2018 to May 21, 2018
On display at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from May 12 to September 16, 2018
On display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia from June 1 to October 27, 2019

Here We are Here: Artists in Conversation
January 26, 2018

#FNLROM: Contemporary Live
January 26, 2018

Activations included:

  • Esmaa Mohamoud, Untitled (No Fields) 2017: This wearable sculpture comments on the issues surrounding the gesture of taking a knee as a form of protest. While clearly referring to current events in the United States, the piece interrogates the longer history of exploitation and social control of specifically Black male bodies from the fields of slavery to the fields of athleticism. The resonance of the athletes’ gesture of protest is not limited to the African American context, but resonates with the equally violent and dehumanizing histories of objectification of Black bodies in Canada’s past and present.

Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana
September 3, 2016 to September 4, 2017

ROM Connects: Professor George Dei
June 9, 2017

The Family Camera Project
May 6, 2017 to October 29, 2017

Isaac Julien: Other Destinies
January 21, 2017 to April 23, 2017

ROM Speaks: Migration, People, Places & Politics
March 7, 2017

Panel discussion

Of Africa: Things, People and Ideas
February 28, 2017

Silvia Forni

ROM Daytime: Nineteenth Century Photography and the Black Subject in Ontario
February 9, 2017

Julie Crooks

ROM Speaks: True North: Race, Sexuality and Science in Arctic Exploration
February 7, 2017

With Lisa Bloom

Screening: "Who Killed Colin Roach?"
February 3, 2017

With remarks by Clifton Joseph

February 3, 2017

Activations included:

  • SUPAFRIK Central: Since its Toronto inception, SUPAFRIK has showcased contemporary African design/culture to audiences from Paris to New Orleans. SUPAFRIK collaborates with artists that represent the cutting edge of African-inspired creativity, from their fashion/art pop-up shops and their infamous sweatbox parties like GUMBO series or the annual Afrobeats at the Drake to their food events like Palattes of Africa and Jollof Wars. To commemorate 5 years of SUPAFRIK, founder Chinedu Ukabam has assembled an art-dance-food party featuring some frequent collaborators and introducing some new ones as well.
  • Highlights: DJ Deemaks live Afrobeats music-video mixing. The delectably controversial Jollof rice makes its debut FNLROM!

ROM Daytime: Isaac Julien Other Destinies
January 26, 2017

Silvia Forni

ROM Speaks: Isaac Julien, In His Own Words
January 24, 2017

ROM Apology for Into the Heart of Africa
November 9, 2016

Maps, Borders and Mobility in Africa
October 11, 2014 to July 31, 2016

ROM Speaks: The Strangers Notebook
March 22, 2016

Dawit Petros in conversation with Elizabeth Harney

Kitchen Conversations: Palettes of Africa
February 6, 2016

In partnership with fashion designer/curator, Chinedu Ukabam 

FNL Encore: One Love
February 5, 2016

Activations included:

  • Water Carry Me Go: Curated by Chinedu Ukabam, Toronto-based fashion designer and Creative Director of SUPAFRIK and Afrotropolis Arts Collective), this "fashion-art" installation features seven luminary and rising African or Afrodiasporic designers from around the word. In this unique collaboration, each designer has created an original garment inspired by the theme of water, delivering beautifully diverse interpretations
  • Screening: RasTa: A Soul's Journey, remarks by Donisha Pendergast

Worn: Shaping Black Feminine Identity
January 31, 2015 to November 1, 2015

Worn Dialogues: Exploring Black Feminine Identity
October 18, 2015

With Andrea Fatona, Jessica Karuhanga, Sylvia Hamilton

Worn Dialogues Gallery Conversations
October 18, 2015 / September 20, 2015 / August 16, 2015

Jessica Karuhanga, Mimi Joh, and Dalton Higgins

Family Funday: Digital Diaspora Roadshow
July 2015

ROM Speaks: Through a Lens Darkly, Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
July 18, 2015

In Conversation: Combat Jack with DJ Kid Capri
February 22, 2015

Program Partner: Manifesto

Screening: The Colonial Misunderstanding
February 18, 2015

With remarks by Aboubaker Sanogo

FNL Encore: Carnival
February 6, 2015

Of Africa Symposium
October 23, 2014 to October 24, 2014

Keynote Presentation Binyavanga Wainaina In Conversation, with Dan Yon

Google Hangout
October 13, 2014

Re-live the Google Hangout! ROM curator, Silvia Forni, and intern Geneviève Wallen kick off the Of Africa project.

This program is generously supported by the William Thorsell Forum Fund.

Authored by: Kait Sykes

Authored by: Kait Sykes