Thursday 19 July 2018

Opening Monday at the Anna Leonowens: North is Freedom

Important  Halifax exhibition profiles the legacy of the Underground Railroad in Canada  by Yuri Dojc
photo by Yuri Dojc
Halifax July 19, 2018 – Halifax’s Anna Leonowens Gallery in downtown Halifax is hosting North is Freedom, an evocative photo exhibition celebrating the descendants of former American slaves who fled to Canada in the years before the American Civil War. The show opens this Monday afternoon.
In portraits of 24 freedom-seeker descendants – the great-great-grandchildren of once-enslaved African Americans – Canadian photographer Yuri Dojc explores Canada’s end of the “Underground Railroad,” a clandestine network of "conductors" and “stations” that helped some 30,000 men, women, and children follow the “North Star” to freedom. 
Black freedom-seekers settled across Canada, but most came to what is now Ontario and Nova Scotia. Future generations remained, and North is Freedom tells their stories - Canadians attuned to their histories and justly proud of their ancestors' courage.  

North is Freedom opens Monday July 23rd, at the Anna Leonowens Gallery – 189 Granville Street, Halifax.  The opening reception runs from 5.30pm to 7:00 pm. Mr Yuri Dojc and Ms. Dorothy Abbott  (featured descendant and treasurer of the exhibition supporting Ontario Black Society -OBS), will be at the gallery at 5:00 to meet with the media. 
Yuri Dojc’s “North Is Freedom” features the great grandchildren of once-enslaved African Americans who found refuge at the Canadian terminus of the “Underground Railroad,” a clandestine network of conductors and stations that helped some 30,000 men, women, and children follow the “North Star” to freedom.
Freedom-seekers who escaped slavery in the United States in the years before the American Civil War settled across Canada. Future generations remained, and North is Freedom named after a poem by George Elliott Clarke, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, shines a spotlight on the descendants of slaves and reflects on their cultural memory.
The evocative photographic series was previously exhibited at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. and timed to coincide with the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was subsequently showcased at the American Embassy in Ottawa during Black History Month in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday.  It has also been shown at The Grey Roots Museum in Owen Sound, Ontario
North Is Freedom’s partnership with the Owen Sound Emancipation Association / OBS  has facilitated the show travelling to Nova Scotia. It honours the descendants living history, heritage, and the enduring legacy of their ancestors. Their stories are both personal and historical.

In Halifax On Monday:

Dorothy Abbott is currently the volunteer Treasurer of two NFP organizations in Ontario; the first is the Ontario Black History Society where she has served on the Board since 2009. The second organization is the Owen Sound Emancipation Association, where she has been a board member since early 2000. Abbott’s interest in genealogy and her family’s origins developed into a passion to recognize and promote Black Canadian history as it is influenced and affected by her original African roots right through to the slave trade in the US, Caribbean and Central and South America. This passion has resulted in several exploratory trips to the southern USA and the Caribbean to trace her family tree. She will be in Halifax for the opening and her photograph hangs in the exhibition.

Photographer, artist and witness, Yuri Dojc’s expansive practice encompasses many kinds of looking. His multi-lens trajectory has pivoted from an established commercial photography practice to his current gaze as an artful observer of the vestiges of history’s most vulnerable.  
In 1968, as Russian tanks were rolling into his native Czechoslovakia, the young student summering in London became, abruptly, “refugee.” And soon, that status shifted again, to immigrant, as Dojc made his way to Canada.   In the decades since, the photographer has made Toronto his home, and the world both his subject and his host. 
Dojc is best known for his observational approach to the past, with its alloy of subjectivities, empathy, and intimacy.  Since the late 1990s, he has been documenting Slovakia's last living Holocaust survivors and the country’s abandoned synagogues, schools, and cemeteries for a series called Last Folio. An international success, this show travels extensively, with major exhibitions in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, New York, Sao Paulo among others. 
In Dojc’s most recent series, North is Freedom: The Legacy of the Underground Railroad as in so much of his work, the photographer illustrates the power of art to convey a narrative that continues to touch us here, now, and into the future.

North Is Freedom is partnered with the Owen Sound Emancipation Festival / OBS and is supported by TD Bank Group, The Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. as well as the kind donation of the printing services courtesy of Epson Canada.
Yuri Dojc


Media Preview with the artist Monday 23 July 5pm at the gallery, or earlier in the day if so desired.
For further information about the show and Yuri contact Stephen Weir 416-489-5868 / 416-801-3101