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Artist Oluseye Ogunlesi Builds a Black Ark to Explore Canada’s Colonial History

As part of the Luminato Toronto Arts Festival, a thought-provoking work by Nigerian-Canadian artist, Oluseye Ogunlesi, is meant to confront Canada’s history in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Called the black ark, the form resembles both the bow of a ship, as well as a chapel, and is meant to commemorate the survivors of slavery. Black Ark’s charred, weather-proof skin is inspired by the beach houses along the Ivory Coast, which are stained black using diesel sediment. The interior, meanwhile, features an intricate, triangulated skeleton inspired by the wooden ceilings of the Diola people’s homes in Senegal, inset with polished aluminium that distorts the viewer’s reflection. And while viewers enter the artwork through a 12-ft-high doorway, its cavernous interior becomes smaller and more claustrophobic as you move deeper into the space towards the exit, which at just under 5 ft tall, makes most the viewer duck down as they tumble out into the daylight. It’s a disorientating though intently curated experience elicited by the sculpture.