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Two Stacks: An Honouring of Sophia Burthen (Pooley) *Extended to June 10th*
The Dundas Museum & Archives proudly presents Two Stacks: an honouring of Sophia Burthen (Pooley), a special art exhibition facilitated by artist/writer Andrew Hunter and in cooperation with the Slavery North Initiative at the University Massachusetts Amherst. Andrew Hunter spent years researching the life of Sophia Burthen (Pooley), a Black girl kidnapped from her family and enslaved in this area in the late 18th and early 19th century. His book It Was Dark There All The Time: Sophia Burthen and the Legacy of Slavery In Canada (2022) explores the fragmentary details of Sophia’s life as the basis for an insightful discussion of race, colonial trauma, and Canadian identity. Hunter expresses in the exhibit:
“I hope Sophia’s story isn’t over, that others will engage with her, and that she will be remembered, not in the margins, but centred, in the heart of this place.”
This travelling exhibition features the works of significant contemporary Black and Indigenous artists from across North America, including Tim Whiten, Anique Jordan, Ebti Nabag (with Reighen Grineage), Shelley Niro, Kosisochukwu Nnebe, Camal Pirbhai & Camille Turner, Jeff Thomas, Chantal Gibson, C.S. Giscombe and Syrus Marcus Ware. The collection of pieces reflects on the life and legacy of Sophia Burthen (Pooley) and the practice of enslavement that remained legal in Canada until the 1830s. Sophia’s story is the only surviving firsthand account of slavery in this area.
Born in New York, Sophia was stolen from her family along with her sister and sold to Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. After several years Brant sold her in turn to Samuel Hatt of Ancaster. Samuel was the brother of Richard Hatt of Dundas. According to her own account, Sophia was enslaved by Hatt for seven years before being told that if she made her escape there would be no attempt to bring her back. Sophia’s story exists today because she was able to live past the age of ninety, at which time she had her account published in Benjamin Drew’s 1856 book ‘The Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada’. The existence of her remarkable story only serves to highlight how many others have been lost