Through Habibiz, Way Past Kennedy Road aims to centre racialized and spatialized understanding of placemaking which transform “the places in which we find ourselves into places in which we live”. We draw from what Black, Indigenous and racialized people have to say about access, movement and forced displacement in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), confronting normalization of community destruction through laws enacted, bans established, and the “stress of living in a metropolis actively pricing out its residents”—all of which have roots in surveillance. These changes are meaningfulto the people who frequent rejected corners of the city: strip malls, shisha lounges, and nail salons alike. We locate the shisha lounge as a site of intergenerational gathering, a site of migrant ownership, and a site of placemaking for Black and/or Muslim people. The stories shared through the exhibit take the ordinary, the things Amani Bin Shikhan describes as “bordering on mundane”, highlighting them both as places of surveillance and places where “otherwise oppressive geographies of a city can provide sites of play, pleasure, celebration [and life].”
still from where now?, Amani Bin Shikhan with Sisterhood Media (2019)
In conversation with Najma Sharif, Halima S. Gothlime responds to questions on “how to create—and even just exist—in spite of” forces trying to suppress and outright ban [Muslim Somali women] from public spaces, describing surveillance as “an organism trying to regulate how and where things are placed”. Through photography, Mahdi Chowdhury interrogates the way surveillance is deeply felt as regulation at borders where visas are used to submit to state surveillance and/or become subject to statelessness. Through a series of .gifs, Idil Djafer traces the way surveillance is deeply felt as regulation in Toronto since the majority of spaces she enters in this ever-gentrifying city are white spaces/negative spaces. Rather than seeing surveillance as something newly inaugurated by technologies such as automated facial recognition and digital data collection, the artists of Habibiz insist on factoring how “racism and anti-Blackness undergrid and sustain existing surveillances”, continuously shaping access, movement, and forced displacement.
At Digital Justice Lab’s ‘Alternative Urban Futures’, Michelle Murphy challenged smart cities projects by asserting that Indigenous land protectors, sex workers and other people who are experts on breaches of consent should be at the forefront of discussions around city infrastructure. We extend Murphy’s call to action by insisting that communities who are often pushed to the periphery should be at the forefront of creating core value systems for this ever-shifting city. Using the Shisha Ban to extend a broader discussion on both placemaking and surveillance with artists and community organizers in Toronto and Chicago, through Habibiz we are offered the space to archive complicated histories and futures of Black, Indigenous, and racialized life in the city.