Black Portraiture[s]:
Absent/ed Presence

14–16 October 2021

A three-day conference hosted by Agnes and presented by Wedge Curatorial Projects, Toronto

        Register for the conference    

            Register for the Keynote       

M. NourbeSe Philip (hosted by Art Gallery of Ontario)
Wednesday 13 October, 1 pm

Agnes is thrilled to host the Canadian debut of the BLACK PORTRAITURE[S] conference Absent/ed Presence. Led by Wedge Curatorial Projects, Toronto, the conference invites artists, researchers, and scholars to explore Blackness as absent/ed presence in art, art history, performance, archives, museums, cultural production and technology. Presenters consider Blackness as unfixed, ungeographic, invisible and hypervisible, opaque, local and global, while asking: What is the role of abstraction in representation? What are the opportunities and limits in logics of representation? How can we, as thinkers and artists, realize new ways of seeing and what can be found therein? What is the current state of Black creative labour? What are methods for attending to that which the archive absents? What can be learned from all that evades archival capture? How might we imagine Blackness into and out of art’s past, present, and future?

The Keynote Lecture features M. NourbeSe Philip and is hosted by the Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesday, 13 October at 1 pm. Following the keynote, M. NourbeSe Philip will be in conversation with DJ and curator Mark Campbell.

If you have questions, email info.blackportraituresto@gmail.com

Support from NYU IAAA/CBVC, NYU Tisch Photography & ImagingToronto Arts CouncilThe Ford FoundationInclusive Community Fund at Queen’s University and The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Breakout sessions

Curated by Nasrin Himada, Agnes’s Associate Curator of Academic Outreach and Community Engagement:

Thursday, 14 October, 6 pm EDT

DJ set by Chukwudubem Ukaigwe followed by a conversation with Akosua Adasi

Art History scholar and writer, Akosua Adasi, will lead a conversation with Winnipeg-based artist, curator, writer, and DJ Chukwudubem Ukaigwe that will highlight his interdisciplinary practice, specifically his interest in sound and composition. Ukaigwe will also DJ a set inspired by some of the discussions on Black sound and aesthetics at the Black Portraitures conference.


Friday, 15 October, 12:30 pm EDT

The real story is what’s in that room
Onyeka Igwe in conversation with Nasrin Himada and Milka Njoroge
(co-presented with Mercer Union)

This event contextualizes key themes running through Onyeka Igwe’s work and the artist’s forthcoming solo exhibition at Mercer Union: The real story is what’s in that room, which includes the new film a so-called archive (2020). In a double portrait of two colonial archive buildings—one in Lagos, Nigeria, and the other in Bristol, United Kingdom—a so-called archive, considers the sonic shadows that colonial images generate despite the disintegration of their memory and materials. The real story is what’s in that room will be on view in Toronto at Mercer Union from 6 November 2021–26 February 2022. This program will include a screening of Igwe’s No Dance, No Palavar.


Saturday, 16 October, 12:30 pm EDT
         Register  (For Students only)       

Rooting Histories, Rising Futures
Community Meet-Up for Black students facilitated by Fatou Tounkara
(co-presented with Union Gallery)

This gathering is a space for Black students to recollect their shared histories of the Black diaspora, and to inspire and envision collective futures. Whilst reflecting on the Black Portraitures conference, participants are invited to discuss their own ideas, experience, vision, and imaginings.


Saturday, 16 October, 6 pm EDT 

Gestures on Portrayal
Luther Konadu in conversation with Nasrin Himada
(co-presented with SBC Contemporary Art Gallery)

In anticipation of Konadu’s solo exhibition at SBC Contemporary Art Gallery in Montreal, this event highlights the artist’s larger body of work and the themes explored through his lens-based practice. Integral to building an expansive framework that prioritizes process and conditions collaboration, Konadu’s photography sets up formations of portraiture that evade capture and that might invite the viewer into a state of “not-deciding.” Gestures on Portrayal will be on view in Montreal at SBC Contemporary Art Gallery from 4 November 2021–18 December 2021.


Akosua Adasi is a second-year MA student in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation at Queen’s University. Born in Ghana, Akosua grew up in England and the U.S until her family settled in Edmonton, Alberta. She specializes in Black feminist theory and contemporary Black art in visual and popular culture, focusing on the construction of the Black body as it relates to femaleness and hybridity as a means of challenging mundane and institutional archetypes of Blackness. Her writing practice is also informed by critical race theory and transnational feminist theories and writings.

Onyeka Igwe is an artist and researcher working between cinema and installation, born and based in London, UK. Through her work, Onyeka is animated by the question — how do we live together? — with particular interest in the ways the sensorial, spatial and non-canonical ways of knowing can provide answers to this question. She uses embodiment, archives, narration, and text to create structural ‘figure-of-eights’, a form that exposes a multiplicity of narratives. The work comprises untying strands and threads, anchored by a rhythmic editing style, as well as close attention to the dissonance, reflection and amplification that occurs between image and sound. Her works have been shown in the UK and internationally at film festivals and galleries. She was awarded the New Cinema Award at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival 2019 and the 2020 Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for Experimental Film.

Luther Konadu is an artist, writer, editor of the publication Public Parking, and resides on Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg.

Milka Njoroge is a PhD student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Her research focuses on visual technologies with an emphasis on Black Finnish geographies. Her most recent publication in ASTRA Magazine is A Story of Queer belonging, Heartbreak and Friendship.

Fatoumata Tounkara is the Program Coordinator at Union Gallery and a fifth-year international student at Queen’s University, currently pursuing her BA in Politics with a minor in Philosophy. Fatou is passionate about exploring how advocacy and the arts can complement one another. She has previously worked as the Program Assistant at Union Gallery, President of the Queen’s Student Diversity Project, and as the Outreach Coordinator for the Queen’s Black Academic Society, during which she helped coordinate events such as The Soul of the Black Artist. Fatou is currently working on a new initiative called Queen’s International Student Society.

Chukwudubem Ukaigwe is a Nigerian born song, dispersed by a transient Atlantic breeze, currently passing through Canada. He consciously uses a variety of mediums to relay a plurality of ideas at any given time. He views his art practice as a conversation, or a portal into one, and in some instances, as an interpretation of this ongoing exchange. Chukwudubem weighs an occurrence, feeling, or idea on a scale and then creates a narrative in his own language. Chukwudubem operates as an interdisciplinary artist, curator, writer, and cultural worker. Ukaigwe is a founding member of Patterns Collective.

Find more

Image Credits

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.