Assembly Gallery, Toronto Metropolitan University,
October 17, 2022 - November 11, 2022

Town Crier | Bimbia, the door of no return, is an exhibition by Prudence Mekongue that shares the creative research that grounds the artist’s five-garment collection designed during the COVID-19 lockdown. Deeply influenced by the works of American poet, essayist, and civil rights activist James Baldwin, the creation of Mekongue’s collection draws upon a wide range of Black cultural references and symbolic expressions and is an expression of her West African heritage. The artist created images of the garments framed by the ruins of Bimbia, a slave market found in Cameroon, as a way of exploring the dual histories of enslaved people. The images tell the story of a defiant people who were captured and sold into slavery through the lens of the generations they left behind. The exhibition provides a space to explore African fashion and culture in the diaspora and critically reflect on global injustices.

Exhibition view of Town Crier | Bimbia, The Door of No Return

Bimbia lies on West Africa’s Atlantic coastal shores and is located in Limbe III, in the South West Region of Cameroon. Today, it is home to a flourishing ecotourism site. Nevertheless, it is also where thousands of people were sold into the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Bimbia was one of the largest slave markets in West Africa. The historical remnants of this horrific past such as chains, padlocks and utensils can still be seen on-site. This site is also linked to Nicholls Island, which is a small island opposite Bimbia. Historically, stubborn slaves were kept at Nicholls Island to prevent them from escaping. More than 166 slave ships left Bimbia for different destinations around the world during the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea.

These images are a medium to showcase the beauty of the people who were enslaved and shipped across the Atlantic through Bimbia’s “Door of No Return”.