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Kelowna artist uses childhood picture to make point about racism

This photo by Kelowna artist Fern Helfand is part of an exhibit coming to the Alternator Centre next month.
Image Credit: Contributed
December 21, 2015 - 1:08 PM

KELOWNA – The Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art is hosting an exhibit next month that hopes to illustrate how innocent actions can perpetuate racism and negative stereotypes.

What Does It Mean To Be The Problem will address how people contribute to discrimination. Works by Fern Helfand, Neon Kohkom, Tannis Nielsen and Samuel Roy-Bois challenge viewers and prompt them to think about how they too might be implicated.

To drive the point home, UBC Okanagan associate professor Helfand, has enlarged a photo from her own childhood where she and two other children pose for the camera. One is wearing a First Nation head dress and war paint, another is in black face and holding an inflatable “hug-a-bug” doll. The photo was taken in 1961.

“This image from Helfand's childhood lies at the axis of the exhibition,” reads a media release from the Kelowna gallery. “Issues of cultural appropriation, stereotyping, racism and privilege aim to challenge the viewer and to prompt them to think about how they too might be implicated no matter how innocent their actions might be.”

All four artists’ works will hang in the gallery from Jan. 5 until Jan. 30. There will be a free reception Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. A public discussion forum focused on racism and privilege will be held on January 15.

For more information on the exhibit visit the Alternator Gallery website.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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