Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 19th 2015 Contents A30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 19, 2015
BY RAY FUNK
Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith
is creating processional art with a
strong base in Carnival mas all over
Most recently, he produced Ring of
Fire, a 300-person procession on
August 9 celebrating the Parapan Am
Games in Toronto.
Commissioned by the Art Gallery
of York University, this project has
been two years in the making and was
a collaboration with many groups from
the disability community, youth cen-
tres and aboriginal groups.
Griffith s first major exhibit, Sym-
bols of Endurance, is currently show-
ing at the Art Gallery of York Uni-
versity in Toronto until December 6.
It will have a central focus on the Ring
of Fire procession, but will cover Grif-
fith s entire career.
The themes of the designs Marlon
Griffith created were based on the
First Nation of Ontario traditions of
seven key principles: Wisdom,
Courage, Respect, Honesty, Humility,
Truth and Love. These became the
seven sections of the band.
The project was a unique collabo-
ration with the Ojibwa community,
the disability community, the spoken
word community, and various youth
As the project description noted,
the project involved "interlocking cir-
cles of performative forms of colonial
cultural resistance from across the
Americas---from pow wow to capoeira
to spoken word to Carnival."
Two years ago, Emelie Chhangur,
the assistant director for the gallery,
came to Japan to meet with Griffith;
he became curator, working closely
with Griffith on both the procession
and the exhibit.
The project was heavily influenced
by the unique vision of the Art Gallery
of York University.
"We present international artists
from a Canadian point of view and
develop innovative projects with [local
disenfranchised communities]; proj-
ects that are not only defined as out-
reach but "in-reach" as well. Our
intention is to extend the public intel-
lectual role of the contemporary art
gallery...through advocacy and engage-
ment with large, yet marginalised
communities and ... diverse audiences
through contemporary art."
When Griffith and Chhangur
realised that the procession would be
happening at the same time as the
Pan Am Games this summer, they
focused on building a relation with
Toronto s disability communities who
were participating in the Parapan Am
Griffith noted this presented a whole
new way to consider issues of acces-
sibility and opportunity for partici-
pants and audience with disabilities.
They worked with dance/perfor-
mance groups in the disabled com-
munity such as Picasso Pro, an inte-
grated dance group, and Equal
Grounds, a fairly young wheelchair
As the project developed, Marlon
Griffith made many trips to Toronto.
He was there all summer in exhausting
sessions, going from one "mas camp"
to another at various community cen-
tres all over the city.
The procession had many layers
created by different groups. The cos-
tumes were produced by the Sew
What! Program at Art Starts and other
visual arts students from Sketch. The
larger mas pieces were created under
Griffith s supervision by sculpture
students at York University.
The audio portion was supplied by
First Nation drummers, and seven
spoken word artists created poems
for the seven themes of the procession.
The two spoken word poets acted
as orators, sentinels of the band sec-
tions, and performed with mega-
phones at stops on the procession
route, with deaf-signing of the poetry.
Marlon Griffith grew up in Belmont
and worked as a Carnival designer as
well as an artist. He worked for several
years with Patrick Robert s Trinity
He later worked for Peter Minshall s
Callaloo Company and his career
exploded after his residence in Johan-
nesberg in 2004, and Mino, Japan in
For the last decade, from projects
in Japan---his current base---to South
Korea, South Africa, Belgium, the
Bahamas, and at the Tate Modern in
London, Griffith has established an
ever-widening reputation. He has been
in exhibits and performance projects
all over the world.
His recent Trinidad night mas proj-
ect from 2014, Positions of Power, is
part of the En Mas exhibit that was
at the Contemporary Arts Center in
He has worked extensively with
curator Claire Tancons on that project
and several others.
He received both a Guggenheim and
a Commonwealth Award in 2011,
which has raised his profile and his
Symbols of Endurance a
strong debut for Griffith
Continues on Page A31
Marlon Griffith's talent has taken him
all over the world and he has worked in
places like South Africa, Japan, London
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