As the Toronto Biennial of Art team, we are accountable to upholding our responsibility to lands we are privileged to work upon. Stretching from the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga in the west to 5 Lower Jarvis in the east, from Sugar Beach in the south to Arsenal Contemporary Art Toronto in the north, our events and activities would not be possible without the care that the stewards of these lands have given for thousands of years.
We acknowledge, first and foremost, that all of these spaces are located on land that has been a site of human activity for more than 12,000 years. This land is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe peoples, including the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Their stories, beliefs, and concepts about the land and the water continue to guide and inspire us. These lands are now home to many Indigenous peoples from across the globe.
We understand the role of settler-colonial privilege and that this land acknowledgment cannot undo immensely violent histories against Indigenous peoples on these lands. As a team and in close collaboration with artists, partners, colleagues, and our board, we continue working to dismantle the legacy of colonial systems that impact all aspects of our practices to the best of our ability. Through our participation in this work and in holding ourselves accountable, we carry forward a commitment to listen, (un)learn, and grow.
We honour the individual histories and knowledge that every participant, colleague, guest, and visitor brings with them to the Biennial by producing exhibitions and programs that challenge us to do better. With more than 125 participants from around the world, and potentially tens of thousands of people taking part to witness their work and their words, we are thankful to be surrounded by all the teachings and wisdom contributed as part of this gathering.
We acknowledge our physical surroundings, from the many buildings and outdoor spaces that house our exhibition and events to all that lies beneath, including the rocks and the soil. The land below our feet was shaped and carved, after all, by the movement of prehistoric glacial ice sheets and running water. We recognize the many lost rivers below us that vein across the city, continually moving water south. These rivers connect us all, physically and psychically, to the lake and its tributaries.
We acknowledge the trees and plants that surround the sites, tracing their root systems up toward the surface, as well as the grass, plants, insects, animals, fungi, and microbial beings that live beside us, sharing the city and the lake. This expansive constellation of beings, both human and not, are always in relation, and we thank them all for being here.
Finally, we direct our intentions to the sky. We acknowledge the clouds, moon, sun, and stars, whose light has made this fantastic journey across space and time.
This Land Acknowledgement has been developed over a period of two years with the consultation and guidance of Ange Loft, and subsequently, with the wisdom of Camille Georgeson-Usher, in collaboration with Candice Hopkins, Ilana Shamoon, Katie Lawson, and Tairone Bastien.
– December 15, 2021
Land Acknowledgement Audio (shortened version):