The Latcham Gallery is excited to present award winning artist/photojournalist Peter Sibbald's exhibition Elegy for a Stolen Land. This is the first time that this work is being seen in a community where the research was done and the photos taken. We may recognize in the work this particular perspective or that but in the end what is being explored here is not necessarily a particular locale but rather how in a larger way we relate to our local and regional lands, be they commonly or privately held. In a culture where progress is measured within a set of very narrow economic parameters, Sibbald's investigation into some of the "collateral damage" that progress engenders is both moving and provocative. For over a decade, first as a camera for hire and then as an activist, he has criss-crossed the region known as the Greater Golden Horseshoe documenting places soon to be lost to the "Great March Forward." Of course these issues are not black and white and within the conversation around development and land-use there are many considerations, economic, social, environmental even spiritual that all cover large swathes of the of the gray spectrum.
By his own admission the artist sites "settler guilt" for the title of the exhibition. Some may find another telling of the story of lost aboriginal heritage by white European voices problematic. Sibbald counters that this story belongs to all of us. First, because it is primarily white European settler culture that is the catalyst for this type of development but also that this is only half of the story he is telling. There is also the loss of farms and the farming way of life. The land holds our histories whatever our heritage. These histories for many people anchor us to place. While they may remain hidden from us, just knowing they are there can give some a sense of continuity and belonging to a particular locale. The loss of these histories, be they First Nations or European settler in origin is the subject the artist is asking us to consider.
For nearly three decades documentary photojournalist, Peter Sibbald has photographed for many of the world’s most prestigious magazines, meanwhile concentrating the focus of his personal work on various long-term bodies of work stemming from his identity as a rural descendent of early Euro-colonial settlers. His practice follows the subjective “new documentary” tradition incorporating a variety of photographic technologies and film formats, digital as well as multimedia. Sibbald’s projects range from documenting Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relationships, though shifting occupation and land-human relationships along a continuum from earth-mother to real estate, to contemporary subcultures struggling to maintain vestiges of their rural colonial roots. As such, he explores questions about shared and divergent colonial-aboriginal histories, meanings of and relationships to land and animals, and beliefs about entitlement to places and ways of being.
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. The artist rejects the convention of Landscape, which objectifies land as something compartmentalized and apart, and instead presents land as an 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.