Agnes exhibitions envision a radically positive future

Working across histories and geographies, Agnes’s new exhibitions operate as networks of relation that envision a radically positive future.


27 November 2021–30 January 2022

Ezi Odozor’s commissioned long-form poem, with audio/visual components creates a narrative arc between the exhibitions History Is Rarely Black or White and With Opened Mouths. The poem invites guests into the space, offering a passageway to the world of the work, but also standing as a bridge for the multiple worlds we all inhabit. The poem functions with roots and routes for interpretation and experience that are both unique and shared.

Curated by Emelie Chhangur

This exhibition is supported by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


27 November 2021–20 March 2022

The exhibitions, both in-gallery and online, interrogate cotton garments in Queen’s Collection of Canadian Dress through archival research and scientific analysis that connects these materials to resource extraction, Indigenous displacement, enslaved labour, and the Underground Railroad. The global thirst for cotton systemically entrenched Blackness as an inhuman, economic element to be controlled and policed.

History Is Rarely Black or White engages contemporary art and fashion to examine colonial history and envision a radically positive future. Artists Karin Jones, Gordon Shadrach, and Damian Jöel demonstrate the way burdens of colonial history entwines itself in research, making and cultural heritage. Jones and Shadrach discuss ongoing legacies of oppression that created the global cotton industry. Jöel mines the history of enslavement, migration and making in his fashion story, Songs of the Gullah. The inclusion of his work illuminates ways in which the cotton trade’s problematic legacy is still with us today and brings the exhibition full circle by juxtaposing garments, artifacts and portraiture based on similar networks of relation.

Access the online exhibition on Digital AGNES to look closely at works, experience a walk-through tour and watch artists speak about their work.

Curated by Jason Cyrus

History Is Rarely Black or White is generously supported by Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Jason Cyrus would like to thank the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR) for their work with Agnes’s cotton garments and Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario through the Curatorial Projects: Indigenous and Culturally Diverse program.


REGISTER FOR THE ONLINE History Is Rarely Black or White Speaker Series

Black Bodies, White Gold: Unpacking slavery and North American cotton production with Anna Arabindan-Kesson and Anne-Marie Guérin
Online, 3 December 2021, 1–2:30 pm (ET)

Global thirst for cotton was fueled by the atrocities of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Anna Arabindan-Kesson joins History Is Rarely Black or White curator Jason Cyrus and conservator Anne-Marie Guérin to discuss ways in which they harnessed science, conservation, and historical research to spotlight Black life at the core of the Victorian cotton industry.

Fully Known: Cotton Production, Black History, and the Canadian Experience with Charmaine Nelson and Shannon Prince
Online, 14 January 2022, 1–2:30 pm (ET)

Charmaine Nelson and Shannon Prince join Jason Cyrus to investigate ways in which cotton production in the United States forever changed the landscape of Canadian diversity. Together they tell stories of Black people on both sides of the border by connecting the Victorian cotton industry with the Underground Railroad and settlement in Canada, addressing the related colonial legacies that still affect Black Canadian life today.

Style as Armour: Identity, Clothing, and Self-Fashioning in History Is Rarely Black or White with Julie Crooks and Nigel Lezama
Online, 11 February 2022, 1–2:30 pm (ET)

Julie Crooks and Nigel Lezama join Jason Cyrus to explore the use of style to both affirm one’s personhood and challenge oppression. Together they examine archival tintypes, contemporary portraiture, and Victorian cotton clothing to shine a light on clothing’s important role in constructing Black identity.

The speaker series is supported by the David and Patti Bain Memorial Fund and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

History Is Rarely Black or White and Spirit Banter act as anchor and connector to continuing exhibitions:

To 30 January 2022

To 30 January 2022

To 16 January 2022

To 12 June 2022


Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory, Agnes is a curatorially-driven and research-intensive professional art centre that proudly serves a dual mandate as a leading, internationally recognized public art gallery and as an active pedagogical resource at Queen’s University. By commissioning, researching, collecting and preserving works of art and by exhibiting and interpreting visual culture through an intersectional lens, Agnes creates opportunities for participation and exchange across communities, cultures, histories and geographies.

Agnes is committed to anti-racism. We work to eradicate institutional biases and develop accountable programs that support and centre the artistic expression and lived experience of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Agnes promotes 2SLGBTQIAP+ positive spaces. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

36 University Avenue
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6
Facebook: @aeartcentre
Twitter: @aeartcentre
Instagram: @aeartcentre

Agnes is an accessible venue, details can be found here.

AGNES THANKS Queen’s University, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, the City of Kingston Arts Fund, Kingston Arts Council, and through generous contributions by foundations, corporate partners, donors and members.

1) Portrait of Ezi Odozor
2) (from left to right) Waistcoat, around 1792–1820, satin, cotton and gold thread. Gift of Margrethe J Birch and Ian H. Birch (Queen’s Science ‘37), 1989. Photo: Bernard Clark; INTRO X DJ, Songs of the Gullah Campaign Image, 2020. Courtesy of the artist; Gordon Shadrach, Written in Stone, 2017, acrylic on wood. Courtesy of the artist
3) Installation in progress view from History Is Rarely Black or White. Photo: Tim Forbes

For further information, contact Kate Yüksel, Communications Coordinator at