Stage Door News

Toronto: Kuumba25 runs at Harbourfront Centre February 1-29

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Toronto’s longest running Black History Month festival, Harbourfront Centre’s Kuumba, marks 25 years of celebrating the heritage, culture and traditions of Black Canadians with a series of talks, workshops, events and performances throughout February, presented by TD The Ready Commitment. The 2020 festival is curated by creative director and part-time professor Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, who most recently spearheaded Nuit Blanche in Scarborough and is responsible for introducing internationally acclaimed projects and artists to new audiences in Toronto (TED Prize winner JR’s Inside Out Project, Mr. Cartoon, Vince Fraser).  As one of Toronto’s foremost contemporary arts festivals, this year’s silver anniversary theme is A Silver Lining: examining the past through cultural expression, ritual and memorabilia, while re-envisioning our identities through art, culture and education.

“With Kuumba’s 25th anniversary, we took a silver-lining approach representative of a Jubilee,” said Kuumba curator Ashley McKenzie-Barnes. “Silver is a radiant, mirroring element that forces us to look into our own reflection and resurface a deep wisdom that can bring forth an understanding of our ancestry and history. The use of silver is traditional in its meaning but also modern, resistant and vibrant in its form. The same composition is emulated throughout Kuumba25.

Kuumba, which takes its name from the Swahili word for “creativity,” aims to strengthen Toronto’s Black community by connecting voices beyond borders. Highlights of the festival include performances of Trey Anthony’s Black Girl in Love (with herself): Speaking the Unspeakable Tings, Jon Boogz and Lil Buck of Movement Art Is in T.W.O.S: The Welcoming of Synergies, and Crossfield House Productions Presents: A Seat at the Table.

More than half of the events are free with advance registration available online. Ticketed events start at $15 and are available for purchase at, in-person or by calling the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000. Tickets on sale now. For more information and programming updates, visit

KUUMBA25 Added Highlights:

  • COMEDY SHOW: Trey Anthony’s Dat Gyal Funny! with headliner Sam Jay
    Saturday, February 8 at 9 p.m. ($35-45,) Fleck Dance Theatre, 19yrs + 

    With a line-up of ladies that know something or two about being funny, award-winning playwright, executive producer, actor, creator, and stand‐up comedian Trey Anthony has put together a night full of laughs that has sold out year after year. Dat Gyal Funny! is headlined by newcomer Sam Jay (SNL, Broad City, Comedy Central) who has written for some of the biggest comedy shows on air. You’ll be left rolling in the aisles with talent from Canadian comedians: Alison Mullings, Taryn Della, Rhoma Spencer, and Sarah St-Fleur. Dat gyal sho is funny!
  • VISUAL ART: Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp Photo Exhibition
    February 2 - 29 (FREE)
    An exclusive Canadian debut public art installation, featuring freedom fighters representing the living embodiment of the organization’s beliefs and pillars. From athletes to activists, lawyers to scholars and actors like Taraji P. Henson and Dr. Angela Davis, the exhibition features prints of people that have collectively transformed their cultural power into a non-negotiable demand for Black Liberation. Together these individuals, selected by Colin Kaepernick, represent the Know Your Rights Camp's 10 principles and inspire us all to fight for our freedom... by any means necessary. Located across the Harbourfront Centre campus.
  • WORKSHOP: Jon Boogz and Lil Buck (Movement Art Is): Inside the Movement of Love Heals All Wounds 
    Sunday, February 16, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. (FREE with online registration) 13yrs +
    Focusing on the development of individual creativity through physical expression and narrative storytelling, students will experience movement and theatre-based strategies integral to the creative process for Love Heals All Wounds. Centered on the dynamic elements of improvisation, play, and collaboration, select original performance text and choreography will serve as points of departure for creative inquiry and movement exploration. Presented alongside a live performance of T.W.O.S: The Welcoming of Synergies, February 15, 8 p.m.; Tickets available online and over the phone.

  • VISUAL ARTS: Making of a Legend: Works by D’Wayne Edwards 
    February 2-29 (FREE) 
    This exhibition takes us through the journey of D’Wayne Edwards’ successful career with a tribute installation made up of signature footwear designs and memorabilia. Edwards’ details and artistry for leading athletic companies such as Nike and Adidas are showcased while celebrating the work of a legend whose vision has originated over 50 design patents, and generated over $1.5 billion in revenue globally. Exhibited alongside youth design workshops on February 16 and 17, in partnership with and Toronto Life.
  • LIFESTYLE: Wednesday Wellness presented in partnership with lululemon
    Every Wednesday in February (5, 12, 19, 26) 6 – 7 p.m. & 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. (FREE with online registration)
    In partnership with lululemon, Harbourfront Centre brings together new audiences in a safe space, to participate in self-care practices. The evening programming will offer yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, fitness, mindfulness workshops, brave dialogue and healing methods. Launching during Black History Month, and for the full month of February, the curated series will highlight facilitators and moderators who are People of Colour, as they are typically underrepresented in the wellness community.
  • VISUAL ARTS: The Prism Effect by William Ukoh (willyverse)
    February 2 – 29 (FREE)
    William Ukoh is a photographer and filmmaker whose images express a contemporary view of fashion, art, and culture. Currently based in Toronto, Canada, Ukoh’s work ties rich colors, textures, and movement together to illustrate a view of the world developed during his time in Nigeria. The Prism Effect explores colour, race and social values while dissecting how we receive information and formulate social habits based on culture, upbringing and our environments. Based on his own experience of leaving Nigeria and migrating to a new country, Ukoh challenges our natural social inclinations to divide or belong. Broadening the conversation around comfort, acceptance and globalism.
  • PANEL: TIFA and Kuumba25 Present: Black Lives on Campus- A Roundtable Discussion
    Wednesday, February 19, 7:30 p.m. (FREE) 
    Black people have long been underrepresented in Canadian institutions of higher education, but in recent years, a shift has taken place. As the tide changes and the number of Black students, faculty and curriculum initiatives increase, are Canadian campuses truly serving Black students more effectively? This Black History Month, the Toronto International Festival of Authors and Kuumba25 invite you to explore this question through both an academic and personal lens. Join two award-winning educators and authors: Eternity Martis (They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus, and Growing Up, 2020) and rosalind hampton (Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University, 2020), for a crucial conversation about navigating through white spaces as a student of colour, and what needs to be done to further deconstruct barriers.
  • FILM & PANEL: Navigating Blackness in Film: A Conversation Between Generations
    Sunday, March 1, 3:30 p.m. Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre (FREE)
    A conversation between Black Youth Pathways 2 Industry (BYP2I) participants and Oya Media Group co-founders Alison Duke and Ngardy Conteh George.  This panel explores navigating personal identity politics through generations as Black people in film. Moderator: Ashley McKenzie-Barnes.