February is Black History Month in Canada and that is drawing attention to a unique photo exhibition at Ryerson University in the heart of Toronto. The university has a dedicated image centre that currently features an exhibition called Human Rights Human Wrongs.
The exhibition showcases original press photographs of events from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement as well as images of the independence movements in Africa.
The centre is home to the famous Black Star Collection. This comprises 292,000 black and white photojournalistic photos drawn from events and conflicts of the 20th Century. It includes subjects from the Great Wars, European history, the American Civil Rights Movement. It also features major international political and cultural figures. The photos come from the Black Star photo agency in New York City. They were gifted to Ryerson University by an anonymous donor along with $7 million dollars so it could be preserved, studied and shown.
Central to the Human Rights Human Wrongs exhibit is a large copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose principal author was Canadian John Humphrey. There are also images of independence movements in African countries including Kenya, Algeria, Chad, and Congo.
There is a multi-media exhibition called The Politics of Images. It shows the way western culture sees Africa in clichéd pictures of starving children and animals and it critiques the indifference to the genocide in Rwanda.
Some of the photographs depict euphoric or violently explicit conditions and the exhibit is designed to help us understand the case for human and civil rights.
The Ryerson Image Gallery is open to the public.
For details RCI’s Lynn Desjardins spoke with Doina Popescu, director of the Ryerson Image Centre.