Sunday School Feels Like Home

May 6,  2023–Jun 9,  2024
    Sunday School, from the series Jump Ball, 2019, from the series Jump Ball. Courtesy of Sunday School. ©Sunday School
Sunday School, from the series Jump Ball, 2019, from the series Jump Ball. Courtesy of Sunday School. ©Sunday School

Founded by Josef Adamu in Toronto in 2017, Sunday School is a creative agency that brings together visual artists from across Africa and the diaspora to share compelling stories. The exhibition and billboard installation encompassing “Feels Like Home” aim to foreground notions of identity, fashion, and culture at the intersection of art and education, celebrating the creators’ collaborative ethos through photographs and video work.

Jeremy Rodney-Hall, The Hair Appointment, 2018. Courtesy of Sunday School. ©Sunday School

Successfully creating work that straddles the worlds of commercial photography and art, Sunday School has undergone an exponential rise, producing numerous projects in Toronto and around the globe, driven by a strong desire for connection. This exhibition is a homecoming of sorts, marking the agency’s sixth anniversary and their first major exhibition in Toronto. “Feels Like Home” highlights work from three series: The Hair Appointment (2018), Ten Toes Down (2021), and Jump Ball (2019–ongoing), and considers contemporary discourses around the notion of home. Each project speaks to the unique and vibrant reflections of Black identities communicated by Sunday School, while further planting their roots beyond online spaces—for home is an inhabited space both tangible and intangible.

Home is a place, our people, our surroundings. Home feels familiar.

In The Hair Appointment,photographed by Jeremy Rodney-Hall, familiarity is woven into the journey through Black womanhood, first introduced by the image of a little girl sitting patiently on the floor between her mother’s legs as she gets her hair braided. The foot of the couch soon becomes a seat at the hair salon—a cultural site where Black beauty, community, and social support are rooted in the routine. In a series of portraits of Black women shot in profile, their braids—now a part of their silhouette—are reminiscent of work by African-American photographer Kwame Brathwaite and Nigerian photographer J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, whose photographs chronicle Black culture, Black women’s hairstyles, and notions of beauty in West Africa and the diaspora.

Home is the body. Home is self-expression.

Unfolding through movement and reflection, Ten Toes Down, photographed by Kreshonna Keane, centers a Black ballerina posing in her own home. The series distills representation in dance and foregrounds subtleties that speak to a longstanding history lacking diversity. Tethered between two close-up images of her tiptoed stance—one of bare, bandaged feet, the other in ballet shoes—she holds firmly onto a piece of white silk fabric, her arms extended on either side. Her flesh-toned pointe shoes—an extension of her melanated skin—symbolize recent advancements in the industry that attempt to resolve the tension between Blackness, the body, and the spaces they inhabit.

Home is not restricted to private spaces. Home is unity.

Jump Ball is an ongoing project that explores the relationship between basketball and the African Diasporic communities. Basketball has a powerful ability to connect people irrespective of class or race, and this series is a story of belonging, acceptance, and unity. The images speak to the ways in which a range of Black communities navigate the nuanced dualities of identity, illustrated through portraits of young Black men donning both traditional African and Western street-style clothing. In Jump Ball: Toronto (2019), photographed by O’shane Howard, the carefully-composed pairings of young men in vibrant Ghanaian Kente cloth or a Senegalese boubou evoke the black-and-white studio portraits of pioneering modernist African photographers Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé, and Michel Kameni, among others. The photographs presented here offer a contemporary vignette of the colourful compositions that could have existed before their lens.

Joshua Kissi, Jump Ball: Mighty Migration, 2020. Courtesy of Sunday School. ©Sunday School

A selection of images from Jump Ball: Mighty Migration (2020), shot by Joshua Kissi, hones in on the influence of basketball in immigrant communities. In one image, a family’s matriarch poses proudly behind a tray full of gold trophies accumulated over the years. In another, an extended family is gathered in their living room; at its centre, the orange Wilson basketball becomes a symbol of hope, aspiration, and family. Home is often associated with feelings of safety and belonging, which gives us the opportunity to feel at home in places we have never been to before.

Most importantly, home is created in each other’s company.

Read more about the billboard component of this project here.

Curated by Emilie Croning

Presented by the Art Gallery of Ontario in partnership with CONTACT. Billboard presentation supported by PATTISON Outdoor Advertising

Sunday School is a creative agency founded in Toronto by Josef Adamu in 2017 in an effort to offer unique perspectives through visual stories and experiences. Bringing together creatives from around the world, the agency aims to shed light on notions of identity, fashion and culture at the intersection of art and education. Sunday School has since gained international recognition for their many collaborations and projects, while actively pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling.