It began with an opening reception featuring DJ Still Running and ended with a stellar performance of steelpan music.
After almost three months in residence at North Vancouver’s The Polygon Gallery, the vibrant exhibition As We Rise has come to a close - but not without going out with a bang.
On Sunday afternoon crowds gathered at The Polygon to bid farewell to a photographic exhibition that celebrated Black life, with free-flowing wine, plenty of food and a performance from steelpan band The Trinidad Moonlighters.
The steel band is at the centre of a new publication to be launched by the gallery: Parallels 03: The Moonlighters, a vibrant booklet featuring texts by writer, urban and human geographer Joy Russell that delves into the origin and history of the group of musicians that thrived on the North Shore in the 70s and 80s.
“I’m hoping people learn of the presence of Caribbean culture, in Vancouver in general, but more specifically here on the North Shore,” said Russell, who was born in Belize but now resides in North Vancouver.
“There was this very vibrant community of West Indians and Trinidadians that really engaged all of Vancouver, and that’s just not a known history. I want to bring to light that history and help people understand that these things were taking place on the North Shore,” she said.
Written like a poetic essay, the booklet traverses the band’s history with colourful detail. It describes how the Trinidad Moonlighters Steel Band had started in Vancouver in 1958, comprising students from Trinidad who were in town to study at the University of British Columbia.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the band played throughout B.C., Alberta, and Washington State, checking off weighty festivals, parades and local haunts. They were regular Saturday night features at the Cosmos Club, a Caribbean social club that once called North Vancouver home. Thirty-five club members had played with the band over the years, and people flocked to the North Shore from all around Vancouver to watch them play, said Russell.
On Sunday, the band, made up of all of its original members, played for a crowd together for the first time in over ten years.
Russell, who had watched from the crowd, said watching them play and hearing them discuss their craft throughout the interview process made it clear just how fiercely proud they are of the music they have created.
It is thus important, even more so, to ensure that their legacy is remembered, she said.
“The North Shore has a very diverse and rich history, one that is made up of so many different communities. There’s these very interesting pockets that have not been told yet and it’s really important that we remember them and treasure them, and bring them to light.”
The booklet also features the work of independent curator, writer, and artist Nya Lewis Williams, who reflects on the spirit of Carnival in her section ‘Walk di road like she cyah touch the ground.’
Parallels 03: The Moonlighters is available to purchase at The Polygon gallery.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.