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Peter Sibbald: Elegy for a Stolen Land

Peter Sibbald

Elegy for a Stolen Land

August 4 – September 11, 2011
Opening Reception – Thursday August 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Minarovich Gallery – Elora Centre for the Arts
Curated by Phil Irish

Caledonia, Ontario. Six Nations Mohawk Protest/ Haudenosaunee Land Reclamation Site
 Approximately 43° 3'19.09"N 79°58'

The riveting photographs of Peter Sibbald reveal the contested meanings and opportunities of the soil we live on. Upon returning to an area of Ontario where seven generations of his family has lived (even lending their name to Sibbald Point), he was surprised at the rate of development and urbanization. As he began to question the nature of our relationship with the land, including the concept of “land use”, a series of events increased his project’s scope: the Ipperwash Inquiry, the disputation of lands in Caledonia, the pronouncement of the Golden Horseshoe’s “Green Belt,” and the steady attrition of farmland.

This complex matrix of issues propelled Sibbald into the contested, or dominated, spaces of our natural and social geography. The resulting images, mostly in panoramic format, encompass a broad sweep of social and economic forces. Protests, real estate, archeological digs, and agricultural change are all featured. Accompanying the photographs, Sibbald’s incisive texts provide a deeper understanding of the images and the land. These images are surprising, astute, and reveal a story that is too often invisible.
Sibbald’s background as a photojournalist lends a unique approach to this exhibition, particularly resonant in Elora. On the banks of the Grand River, with first nations artifacts collected from the Gorge and other sites, and with the fertile farmland increasingly giving way to development, we would do well to consider development within a larger historical frame. Elegy for a Stolen Land draws out these questions in compelling visual form.

For over 25 years documentary photojournalist, Peter Sibbald has photographed for many of the world’s most prestigious magazines, meanwhile concentrating the focus of his personal work on the themes of land, home and colonization. Raised on the land of his pioneer ancestors near Sibbald’s Point before moving south to Toronto, it was while returning home to raise a seventh generation that he discovered the rapacious assault on Ontario lands. “It struck me that it fell to people like me to focus public attention on both the loss of aboriginal and non-aboriginal heritage and our capability of ensuring a secure food supply.” Sibbald rejects the convention of Landscape, which objectifies land as something compartmentalized and apart, and rather presents land as a nexus of human cultural will and nature where social justice, politics, spirituality, commerce and philosophy collide.

The Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council have provided support for this ongoing project.