Arts

Atangana, seen here with Samuel Ervé Mandeng. Photo: Bridget Coady/Fulcrum.

The proposed Cultural Centre will include an A/V studio and mentorships for young Black artists

On Sept. 11, Canadian-Cameroonian musician Wise Atangana launched an initiative to raise $100,000 to start an Afro-Black Cultural Centre in Downtown Ottawa.

Timed with the release of his new album, Justice for Peace #BlackLives Matter, the downtown fundraiser launch featured prominent speakers from the City of Ottawa and Montreal, including Rawlson King, councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe, Catherine McKenney, councillor for Somerset, and Samuel Ervé Mandeng, secretary-general of Black history in Montreal. 

Atangana’s proposed cultural centre would be located in central Ottawa, most likely in the Somerset Ward according to Somerset Councillor Rawlson King, with the aim to open in 2021. One of the key components of the proposed centre is that of mentorship for Black youth from established artists – in the form of workshops, masterclasses, and tutorials. 

The centre would provide access to materials and gear that otherwise might not be available to emerging artists, and offer opportunities for young Black musicians to collaborate with one another.

It will include an A/V production studio, as well as a “collaborative workspace” where young Black Canadians can network and create together. Atangana hopes the centre can foster new media that helps to challenge problematic media portrayals of Black people.

“Hollywood participates in promoting negative stereotypes of Black people. But films such as Black Panther deconstruct those stereotypes; that’s why they’re so important,” said Atangana 

“I’m interested in how technology and art can deconstruct Black stereotypes and inspire the next generation. We need to recreate our image to promote a more accurate image of Black people.”

Atangana hopes the Centre will empower youth to dismantle the systems of anti-Black racism present in Canada.

“Racism starts at home. It’s what parents are saying to children…about Black people being violent, or being stupid. I know Black children who are being homeschooled because they are being bullied so badly at school,” he said 

“They need positive role models. Through the arts, they can learn to express themselves and be proud of who they are.” 

Said in front of Bank & Lisgar’s “We ‘Gon Be Alright” mural, Atangana’s words resonated with the moderate crowd present for the press release

Atangana performed two songs from his new album, inviting spectators to sing and dance with him. Guest speaker Samuel Ervé Mandeng also invited spectators to take a knee for #BlackLivesMatter, inspired by the lasing actions of Colin Kaepernick. 

Atangana is committed to using this proposed space to make good on eradicating racism in the lives of Black youth.

“Racism is an economic problem and an educational problem. That’s why we need to invest in education and opportunities that benefit Black children and youth, and promote a culture of ownership in Black communities. Elsewhere, Black people succeed because they have a physical and visible space to work and collaborate with each other.”