Sankofa is the idea of moving forward while reaching back to connect to one’s heritage. It is the notion that taking pride in heritage helps us to move into the future. Sankofa comes from the Ghanaian Akan language, and the word and its essence have been adopted by many African and Black people around the globe as an expression of cultural and political affirmation.
Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots looks at some of the divergent—and often fragmented—paths of political mobilization and cultural assertion that African and Black people in the diaspora have taken. Centered on works by contemporary artists from Lagos, Nigeria, and Vancouver, in conversation with objects in MOA’s permanent collection, this exhibition shares stories, histories and projects of African and Black affirmation. In particular, it draws connections to historical contributions and the growing vitality of Black Canadians in Vancouver.
Ultimately, Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots celebrates different ways of understanding the world through the lenses of African and Black communities, the wealth of their cultural and art practices, and their inspiring legacy.
Curators: Nya Lewis (founder + director, BlackArt Gastown), Nuno Porto (MOA Curator, Africa), Titilope Salami (PhD candidate, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC)
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Photo credits (L–R): 1. Sankofa figure, maker unrecorded (Asante). MOA Collection K2.368. Photo by Skooker Broome. 2. Adinkra Symbolism, by Ablade Glover (Asante), c. 1971. MOA Collection K2.455 b. Photo by Jessica Bushey. 3. I am Queen Idia, the Angel of Kings, by Victor Ehikhamenor (Nigeria), 2017. Courtesy of the artist. 4. Bia Atôbe (Nya), by Michèle Bygodt (Vancouver), 2021. Courtesy of the artist. 5. Figures, maker unrecorded (Yoruba), 2019. MOA Collection 3406/1, 3406/2. Photos by Alina Ilyasova. 6. Ibeji Project, by Stephen Tayo (Nigeria). Courtesy of the artist. 7. Sisi Eko – Moremi, by Onosanya Onolaja (Nigeria), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.