CBC Docuseries makes art matter

Documentary explores artists’ personal relationships to their art

Curtis Talwst Santiago in the trailer for In the Making.
Credit: 
Screenshot from YouTube.

Hosted by Sean O’Neill, the new CBC documentary series In the Making tracks the creative process of artists in Canada and around the world.

O’Neill explores the artistic achievements of underdogs, while charting the artists’ influences on their audience.  

Throughout the series, he challenges the view that art is only beauty, demonstrating it is capable of explaining unique experiences.

The eight-episode series, which originally aired in September, includes visual artists Curtis Talwst Santiago and Divya Mehra.  

One episode follows Mehra breaking down barriers with her unconventional work in Delhi, India. 

For her, that involves creating a bouncy castle Taj Mahal.

An immigrant from India, Mehra’s intercultural experience shapes her work, which is a thoughtful take on cultural heritage and race. 

The resulting critical analysis deconstructs discrimination and its effects. Fittingly, her work is inseparable from her personal history and experience as an immigrant.

It was on display when she returned to India. Mehra created a small inflatable Taj Mahal to critique common misrepresentations of the South-Asian community.  The work challenges the misuse of the Taj Mahal as a tourist attraction. 

Instead, it reclaims the landmark and its authentic representation of South-Asian culture. 

By creating a bouncy castle of the Taj Mahal, Mehra redefines how we look at the Indian cultural heritage site. It challenges viewers to recognize it as a meaningful and impactful display of Indian cultural heritage, rather than a tourism hotspot.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Curtis Talwst Santiagocreated art based off his identity as a Trinidadian-Canadian artist. 

While Talwst Santiago was in Portugal, he discovered his ancestry and its roots with the Moors, the African-descended rulers of the region up to the 15th century.

Visiting Castelo de Almourol, where he began to identify with his roots, he was inspired to include the experience in his work. 

This new artistic understanding of his ancestral heritage was a colorful suit of armor. 

Similarly, other art from Trinidad, South Africa, and Lisbon influenced Talwst Santiago while he made the multi-color suit of armor. To Santiago, the armor represents how art unifies communities through culture.

The striking piece also reflects Talwst Santiago’s confident self-expression. He claims this love of communication and different cultures comes from his mother.

“If you brought [my mother to Lisbon], she would know everyone on the block within two weeks,” Talwst Santiago said on  the show.  

His story is filled with extraordinary adversity and immersion into culture, which he said serves as his own armor and protection. 

In these two episodes, In the Making depicts the power of one artist to influence the world. 

Through Mehra and Talwst Santiago, the docuseries portrays the relationships between self, art, and culture. 

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