Explore the cosmos in Mississauga’s first permanent public sculpture from Black and Brown artists


Published November 8, 2022 at 3:46 pm

rayyan cosmic bloom
City of Mississauga rendering

A new Mississauga sculpture will offer a chance to explore the night sky through a multicultural lens.

Rayyan: A Cosmic Bloom is described as “a dynamic gateway sculpture” that explores “the cosmos through the language of sacred geometry.”

The perforated and illuminated aluminum sculpture will be installed in Park 535, at the corner of Kariya Drive and Elm Drive West in Mississauga.

The piece is inspired by the city’s name, Mississauga, which originates from an Anishinaabe word meaning river with many mouths.

The public art piece will be Mississauga’s first permanent work from artists, Malton’s Quentin VerCetty and Toronto-based artist Javid JAH. The two have worked together in the past and wanted to create something for Mississauga.

“It’s important for both of us to create visibility for our heritages, which are minorities, and often marginalized,” says JAH.

“So for Quentin, Afrofuturistic images and representation of Black communities and for myself, Muslim communities, which involves a diversity of languages, ethnicities and cultures. But for both of us, it was important — especially in a city that is as diverse as Mississauga — to have permanent public art reflect diverse communities.”

rayyan cosmic bloom

Quentin VerCetty, left and Javid JAH are creating Rayyan: A Cosmic Bloom. Photo by Tylor Key-Carr

Growing up in Malton, VerCetty said there was a huge Black and Brown community.

“So, I thought it would be more powerful not to just be the only voice creating this piece. And so, having Javid on this and bringing his lens onto this piece. I really wanted it to be intentional to inspire as many people as possible,” VerCetty says.

They also consulted with Indigenous people to incorporate their knowledge into the piece. The artwork explores cosmology and how is it shared by different traditions.

The form is inspired by traditional Islamic arches with perforated flowering shapes known as crystalline and adinkra (West African) symbols of the elements, fire, earth, air and water.

rayyan cosmic bloom

The crystalline shapes will be an oculus to the sky for constellations. The shapes will also be cast on the ground and around arch. The gateway frames how people interact with the sky and nature.

“The idea is that when people go under this arch they’ll enter through this gateway into this park, inspired, and leave, ideally, more inspired to be better people for the world,” says VerCetty.

The name of the piece Rayyan is an Arabic word meaning flowering or door of heaven. It was important for VerCetty and JAH to name the piece with a word from a minority culture.

“We’ve just noticed that there are very few public artworks, actually any space in the built environment, that actually is permanently reflective of a minority group of visible minority groups,” said JAH.

VerCetty created the first monument of a person of African descent in 2021 – called Stepping Forward Into History- The Joshua Glover Memorial in Toronto. And Rayyan: A Cosmic Bloom is Mississauga’s first permanent artwork from Black and Brown artists, VerCetty says.

“We’re definitely bringing something that’s a first of its kind,” he says.

As he is from Malton, VerCetty hopes to bring more art of this kind to his home community. Malton is one of the communities in Mississauga lacking permanent public art. This piece was a response to a call for artists and the location, in downtown Mississauga, was already chosen.

A city spokesperson says Mississauga is committed to building a public art collection that is reflective of the diversity in the city.

“Over the past two years, we have been working on conducting an equity audit of the public art collection and have embedded principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice throughout our commissioning processes, including running a Call for Art Selection Committee members earlier this year to help build more representative art selection committees,” a city spokesperson says.

Examples of permanent artwork in the city by people from diverse backgrounds includes: It Takes a Community to Build the Story by Jay Havens, Vietnamese Boat People Monument by Vi Vi Vo Hung Kiet, and Neighbours by Jon Sasaki.

Those interested in the city’s Public Art Plan are invited to take a survey at https://yoursay.mississauga.ca/public-art-master-plan

JAH and VerCetty plan to unveil their completed sculpture in October 2023.

Editors note: This story was corrected on Nov. 9. The piece is Mississauga’s first permanent public art from Black and Brown artists.

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