Visual Culture: What a Bam Bam Spotlights Caribbean Culture in Toronto

Words by Sharine Taylor
Photos by Vonny Lorde

“What a Bam Bam” wasn’t your ordinary party. There was dancehall, there was soca and there was an open bar sponsored by Appleton Rum but, amidst all the good vibes and laughter, art that took centerstage. Held in collaboration with Toronto-based duo Art+Tax, writer and digital content creator Sajae Elder curated the #WhatABamBam art show. The show was a celebration of the creative contributions the Caribbean Diaspora has made to the city of Toronto, featuring the works of Toronto artists Martika Jabari, Jalani Morgan, ORANGEinal McFresh Creates, Nathalia Allen and JComrie Arts as well as Jamaica’s Taj Francis, and work from the Nia Centre (an arts-based organization for African-diasporic youth).

Though Toronto is home to a large Caribbean community, we rarely take the time to acknowledge the achievements made within the diaspora. But that night, we did. A favourite amongst the works displayed was the piece that gave the event its name: “What a Bam Bam” by ORANGEinal, a collage of women adorned in Carnival wear. The event, held at Blank Canvas Gallery, brought out all kinds of people and featured sounds by DJ Smartiez, as we celebrated the only way we know how to: Caribbean style. 

The #WhatABamBam exhibition came at a necessary time. Sister Nancy has recently won the legal battle over “Bam Bam,” one of the most sampled reggae songs of all-time. For decades, she had not been compensated when it was used. This very much reflects how often Caribbean people, as content producers, almost never reap the benefits from the things that they make. As the event aimed to honour the diaspora’s contributions, #WhatABamBam, similarly allowed the diaspora to reclaim ownership in its own way.