Nine Canadian women daring to do something different.
Meet nine Canadian women who are changing the way we talk about everything from art to technology to how we handle our money.
Melding, combining, dialoguing—these are all words that come up a lot in conversation with contemporary artist Kapwani Kiwanga. She’s a multidisciplinarian, for starters: an awardwinning documentary filmmaker turned artist with a scholarly bent. Her personal geography—born in Canada, spent a few years in Scotland, now based in Paris—is certainly varied. And her work, of course, revolves around what the 38-year-old calls “trying to bring different worlds together at a meeting point where they dialogue and become something different.”
An excellent example of this is a project (which is still developing in her mind) based on a proposed bridge linking Africa and Europe: “My question isn’t really about migration, although that comes up; it’s about distinctions between land masses and how those have been seen as the beginning or the end of the world, as starting or end points.” (What will that artwork look like? She says she has no idea yet, but this is how they all start.) In the years since she studied anthropology at McGill University, Kiwanga has turned that inquiring artist’s eye to subjects as diverse as Tanzanian history (the subject of her 2014 exhibition at the presti- gious Jeu de Paume in Paris) and the United Nations’ collection of curios from around the world (a commission for this year’s Armory Show in New York City).
“Every project is different,” says Kiwanga of the installations she creates. “I believe people understand things in different ways—some spatially, others sensually, still others intellectually. I’m just trying to give different intelligences a way to latch onto a specific moment in time.” Kiwanga tries to “transmit [her] excitement about sometimes very geeky things”—depending on the exhibtion you see, how she does that varies. It can be video, sculpture or sound—she lets the idea dictate the expression.
And while her work often deals with what she calls “stories and histories that have maybe fallen through the cracks, that are more marginal,” she is hesitant to call herself “an activist” artist. “That would be pompous!” she says, laughing. “There might be a political aspect because there are questions of power dynamics that are inherent, but it’s never meant to be frontal or convert anybody. I’m simply stating my position, and people can take it or leave it.” Sarah Laing