Nadine Villasin Feldman is the Director of Public Programs for Myseum of Toronto and has been engaging diverse communities through cultural programming and meaningful participation in the arts for over 15 years. Learn More
Revisionist Toronto, our 2019 exhibition, revisits and re-imagines the dominant narratives that shape our understanding of the city through a festival of collaborative exhibits and events. This exhibition will explore lost or hidden Toronto stories that have been paved over and forgotten, and how we can reclaim those histories.
A s a young Filipinx-Canadian growing up in Toronto, I longed to connect with a history that reflect and intersected with my own. As part of the “visible minority” — when this descriptor for people from culturally diverse and immigrant communities still applied — my generation of cultural hyphenates longed to see our faces and stories reflected…somewhere. In the histories we learned in school, books we read, movies we watched, cultural institutions we visited…somewhere. Anywhere.
Once in a while there was something. A story in the news. A face on TV. A reference in a paragraph. But even those fleeting glimmers and glimpses of recognition were often distorted through the lens of stereotype and generalization.
At the time, my understanding of history — the history I learned — was that it generally didn’t involve people like me. When and where it did was both brief and dejecting. The history of my, and other, colonized peoples, was one of those acted upon by others: discovered, subjugated, exploited, educated, saved.
Legacies in Motion: Black Queer Toronto Archival Project talks that unearth the history of political organizing and cultural activism from the Black LGBTQ communities in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s
When I was 16, I read a book by Philippine historian Renato Constantino called The Philippines: A Past Revisited. A nationalist perspective on the history of the Philippines, it was a revisionist approach to a national history that had been constructed and told through the eyes of a colonizing power. Constantino challenged the pervading colonial narrative, one of the subservience and foreign dominance, and told a story of active resistance and resilience. This was a seismic shift in my understanding of history and my place in it.
The notion of revisionist histories has certainly come to have other meanings and intentions — namely to obscure and misrepresent historical realities (as seen through Holocaust denial or Civil War revisionism). However, I like to think that a more useful understanding of the value of revisionist history prevails. Malcolm Gladwells’s highly popular podcast, Revisionist History, “examines the way the passage of time changes and enlightens our understanding of the world around us” and “reinterprets something from the past…Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.”
The history of my, and other, colonized peoples, was one of those acted upon by others: discovered, subjugated, exploited, educated, saved.
This year’s Intersections: Revisionist Toronto invites our program partners and our audience to revisit, revise and re-imagine the dominant narratives that shape our understanding of our city and ourselves. In doing so, Myseum aims to tell the multiple stories of Toronto which, brought together, form a more complete and shared perspective on our history.
From events such as the Legacies in Motion: Black Queer Toronto Archival Project talks that unearth the history of political organizing and cultural activism from the Black LGBTQ communities in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s; to exhibits such as Outliers on Tour that focus on perspectives of disability-identified artists to shape our understanding of inclusive city futures. The Intersections festival hopes to contribute to a larger effort of piecing together our collective record.