Duane Kumala-Thomas: Highlander Studios - History and Truth
Duane Kumala-Thomasrecently invited me to his art studio called Highlander Studios in Woodstock, Ontario for a tour and a conversation about his studio, his work, his philosophy and his awe-inspiring art installation in downtown Ingersoll.
Duane Kumala-Thomas explores the relationship between multiculturalism and perspective. With influences as diverse as Fela Kuti and Salvador Dali, compositions of both audio and visual nature are generated from both mundane and transcendent discourse. Deconstructing the familiar (i.e. stereotypes, myths, iconic images, etc…) and examining it from unusual angles is the technique that allows him to explore and present “new” ideas.
Born and raised in Woodstock Ontario, Duane spent the majority of his adolescence between his hometown and Ingersoll; the majority of his friends having been from the neighbouring town. Though he grew up with the same external influences as those around him, him upbringing inside the home, as a young black man, stood him in a different position than most. This cultural perspective gave him a different outlook on the pop culture programming he was privy to via television, radio, and eventually internet.
Ever since becoming a “self-aware minority” Duane has been fascinated by the
understanding that the truth simply is; and everything else is merely a perspective of it. What’s right today, this year, or century, may not be right tomorrow, next decade, or next millennia; however, what’s true now is true eternally.
The art installation Duane created and was describing is in downtown Ingersoll, Ontario. Duane’s poem “This Town of Ours”will soon accompany the installation in both, written and audio format, accessible via a plaque and QR code on site. You can hear it midway through the episode, in Duane’s own voice. And here it is below:
THIS TOWN OF OURS
Whether bird's eye views from steeples,
Or people's ties to railroads underground
Look and listen. You too must be smitten
By sights and sounds all around
This historical town,
Acknowledging land where tree strands rooted and water ran through it.
Tracking life through this town of ours.
With cabin erected Thomas affected a future forever in flower.
Tracking fate through this town of ours.
What was done to the land once Ingersoll found it was what eventually had Ingersoll founded.
Tracking persistence through this town of ours.
Inquisitive and riveted when John Brown visited
Tracking recruits through this town of ours.
From the steps of its BME church to the 168 Battalion's birth,
Tracking Oxford's Own through this town of ours.
A question rhetorical, but what more historical
Then this town of ours asking how?
History, her story, mystery, your story, our story's
The art installation was done in collaboration with:
FedDev Ontario (funding)