Mosa McNeilly 2018

In January 2019, the 30th anniversary of, Black Wimmin: When & Where We Enter, the first exhibition of Black women artists in Canada, was celebrated at a performative intervention at the AGO, The Feast: 100 Black Wimmin Artists. I attended the event with three of the original artists, and we were recognized as a members of the DAWA Collective (Diasporic African Women Artists) responsible for curating and touring the historical exhibition to five venues across Canada, and as four of the eleven artists featured in the 1989 exhibition. 

Since then, I have worked to regroup the DAWA Collective for the purpose of mounting a touring exhibition project to mark this historical event. Seven of the original artists have agreed to participate, A Space Gallery, the first venue of our 1989 exhibition tour, is confirmed as our first venue for our 2021 exhibition tour, and Andrea Fatona has agreed to curate.

In December 2019, I was honoured to be one of 19 artists to receive an Acker Award and to be included in a legacy of radical artists and activists in Toronto. I am part of a generation of Black women artists who have laid a foundation in Canada, yet whose work, to a great extent, has been absented from the narrative of contemporary art in this country. I’m proof that we’re still here, in spite of the systemic barriers we have faced for decades.

I spin my livelihood as a visual artist, performer, and educator, editor, mentor, and Sacred leader, while holding it down as a single parent. In my arts practice, working through interdisciplinary methodologies of encaustic mixed media assemblage, installation, performance and ritual. I center the Black female subject, employing hybrid Vodou and Yoruba iconographies, riffing on Middle Passage memory, Black radical imagination, and the Sacred. 

Over my career spanning three decades, my artwork has been shown in galleries such as A Space Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, Metro Convention Centre, Studio Visuals, and Crossroads Gallery in Toronto, Articule Artist-Run Centre in Montreal, Pier 21 and Eyelevel Gallery in Halifax, Houseworks Gallery in Ottawa, Grey Roots Museum & Archives in Owensound, XChange Gallery and Studios in Victoria, and Marryshow House in Grenada, as well as venues in Winnipeg, Sacramento, and Pyongyang, North Korea. My work has been featured in publications such as Cosmic Underground Northside: An Incantation of Black Canadian Speculative Discourse & Innerstandings (Cedar Grove Publishing, forthcoming), Canadian Women Studies Journal, Revue Noire, American Psychologist, Parallelogramme, and Borderlines.

In my interdisciplinary performance practice I incorporate movement, voice, dance, music, storytelling and clown exploring theatre, performance art and durational performance modalities. I have performed in venues such as the George Ignatieff Theatre, Music Gallery, Royal Ontario Museum, Roy Thompson Hall, the Skydome, and Ontario Place in Toronto, the River Run Centre in Guelph, Dalhousie University in Halifax, and Lloyd Best Institute in Trinidad.

My work as an editor has offered me the opportunities of being the manuscript editor on the OAAG award-winning AGO publication, Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum, and on the AGO publication Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood, as well as on author Dr. Nikki Greene’s forthcoming book Grime, Glitter, and Glass: The Body and the Sonic in Contemporary Black Art, due for publication with Duke University Press. I have made lecture presentations at institutions such as York University, University of Waterloo, University of Ottawa, OCADU, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Ontario Black History Society, and Axené07 Gallery. 

In my arts education practice, I endeavour to foster African cultural literacy, catalyze agency, and nurture Black self-love. Working independently and with arts organizations such as Inner City Angels, Coco Collective, Por Amor, and La Muse Art Studio, I have delivered hundreds of African cultural arts education projects and performances reaching thousands of elementary, secondary and post-secondary learners across southern Ontario. 

And in my sacred leadership work, I work collectively to envision Black futures of possibility, and to curate spaces for Black healing. Partnering with community organizations such as Sacred Women International, Global Leadership Village, Ubuntu Community Collective, Oasis Centre des Femmes, and Woodgreen Community Services, I endeavour to serve women, youth, and children of African descent through art, performance and spiritual practices grounded in knowledges of the African diaspora.

I have received numerous arts and academic grants, awards, and scholarships, and am a graduate of OCADU and the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, with studies at the Parsons School of Design and the Royal Conservatory of Music. I have received teachings from African and Indigenous Elders from the Yoruba, Dagara, Shona, and Anishinaabe spiritual traditions, and am an initiated Sacred Leader of Sacred Women International. I hold an MES from York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, with my Major Research Portfolio featured in the FES Outstanding Graduate Paper Series.