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For the (Caribbean) culture

July 29th, 2019

Image courtesy of pexels.com

You may remember last month’s AGOinsider preview of the highly anticipated Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, recently acquired by the AGO. In keeping with the spirit of celebrating Caribbean culture, this Saturday, August 3 marks the 52nd annual Caribana grand parade. Kicking off the final weekend of Toronto’s month-long Caribbean Carnival celebration, the parade of over 1.3 million people (the largest in North America) will jump and wave all the way down Lakeshore Boulevard from 8 am to 6 pm.

In addition to the dancing and celebration, Caribana also features beautiful floats and masterfully crafted costumes worn by masqueraders, or those playing Mas. The West African tradition of Masquerading dates back centuries; it combines elaborate masks and garments with theatrical pageantry as a way to welcome and honour ancestors. The tradition has been adopted and incorporated into the cultural customs of many diasporic African communities, most notably Caribbean Carnival celebrations like Caribana, Trinidad Carnival, Crop Over (Barbados) and many others. Carnival is an important cornerstone of Caribbean culture, representing a direct link to pre-colonial African history, as well as more recent diasporic migrations.      

J.W. Cleary, Coconut Palms, Kingston Harbour, ca 1895, 17.53 cm x 23.11 cm. Gelatin Silver print Promised Gift of Patrick Montgomery.

The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, acquired by the AGO this past June, is a group of more than 3,500 photographs throughout the region captured over a 100-year period (1840s – 1940s). The acquisition of the collection was generously supported by members of Toronto’s Black and Caribbean communities. Julie Crooks, the AGO’s Associate Curator, Photography calls the collection “a visual record of the Greater Caribbean region in the years following the emancipation of slavery. The photographs are as compelling to look at as they are to study, and we can’t wait to get started. This is perhaps the largest known collection outside of the Caribbean, and positions the AGO as a leader in Caribbean photographic research.”  

See you on the road bright and early on Saturday! And stay tuned for The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, scheduled for public viewing in 2021.

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