94 Chestnut at the Crossroads is a project calling attention to the historical presence and impact of Black Canadians in designing, building and tending to one of the oldest immigrant communities in downtown Toronto – St. Johns Ward. This four-part image is staged in front a construction hording whose walls block and hide from public view the 2016 excavation of a historic Black church.
The British Methodist Episcopal church, built in 1845, was an epicenter for the political and spiritual work of Black Canadians and the excavation of the grounds in which it stood was coined as being one of the largest urban archeological digs in North American history. Not only was the church an important meeting site for many newly arrived Black Torontonians, it became a space of refuge and social justice for those escaping the brutality of the Fugitive Slave Act of the United States.
While this series has recently been shown in as part of the exhibition “As We Rise: Photography of the Black Atlantic”, it was a performance that occurred concurrently and almost parallel to the Black Lives Matter tent city sit in at the police headquarters.
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94 Chestnut at the Crossroads
The history of St. Johns Ward in downtown Toronto has been brought further to the spotlight over the last few (pre-pandemic) years however, seldom do we hear of the vast range of contributions Black people made to the building the inner corners of the city. Over the course of the pandemic and during the rise of Black Lives Matter, the public has become more attune to the political struggles waged by Black people.
These responses, however, are often written about as though they are recent developments or extensions of work done in the US and seldom grounded and rooted in a history of the actual development of the city of Toronto itself. Knowing the organizational, communal and political role this church played as a site of protection during a time when it was dangerous to offer this sort of refuge, is critical to understanding the foundation that the activist work happening currently in our city is based upon.
This project contributes to historical knowledge by staging a woman who refuses to move, who refuses to not remember and who instead mourns and honors the lives of those whose labor (political, spiritual and otherwise) created the conditions for the city to function as it can today.
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94 Chestnut at the Crossroads
About the Artist:
Award-winning artist, writer and curator, Anique Jordan, looks to answer the question of possibility in everything she creates. Working for over a decade at the crossroad of community economic development and art, Jordan’s practice stems from and returns to the communities that inform it.
Jordan’s curatorial work has been seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario where she co-curated the groundbreaking exhibition, Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood with Andrew Hunter, at UCLA in California and Liberty Hall in Jamaica where she produced Song for the Beloved with Dr. Honor Ford-Smith, at NIA Centre for the Arts where she curated, The Marvelous are Here and as part of a site specific series, The Public: Land and Body.
Jordan has lectured on her artistic and community engaged curatorial practice as a 2017 Canada Seminar speaker at Harvard University and in numerous institutions across the Americas including University of the West Indies, MIT, University of Toronto and UCLA.