New exhibit explores hidden past of slavery in Quebec
It's a unique look at a side of Quebec's history that's often hidden in the shadows.
An exhibition at Quebec City's Museum of Fine Arts, called “Fugitives!,” explores the history of slavery in Quebec. The exhibit is the brainchild of hip-hop artist and historian Webster who hopes the project can honour individuals who were forced into slavery.
"One day I was thinking about the history of the people of African descent here and I thought that it was kind of sad that we don't have pictures," Webster explained.
"I thought, 'There are some pictures, but they are not painted - they are written.'"
Drawing on runaway slave ads that were published in newspapers like the Quebec Gazette, which would advertise runaway slaves with very precise descriptions, Webster turned to nine local artists.
Each working in their own colourful style, the artists brought those descriptions to life, creating the faces of the 13 people described in the ads.
"One thing I think is important is to show that those people weren't people who were victims, passive victims of slavery," Webster said.
"They took matters into their own hands, and decided to fight slavery with the means they had back then."
The portraits are displayed alongside the 350 Years of Artistic Practices in Québec exhibition, which presents portraits of city officials and dignitaries.
"From one side you have people from the top of society, and on the other side you have people at the bottom of society who weren't even perceived as citizens," Webster said.
"They were mere goods - people who were sold, bought, traded, willed, and given...so it is important to me to have those two contrasts in that same room."
For the museum, the exhibit is a chance to transform their existing collection, and highlight diversity.
"To be able to actually listen and understand better, and for us as a museum to start changing our practices to be more inclusive and to be able to learn about it," director of collections and exhibitions Annie Gauthier said.
"To accept that we don't have the full part of that history with the collection."
Originally scheduled to run only four weeks, the success of the exhibition has prompted the museum to extend its run until September.
With files from Maya Johnson