Storytelling on Canvas

Art From Togo At Shäika Café

  • Painting by artist Kokou Kpatakou, on display at Shaika Cafe to November 4.

A supply teacher goes to Togo, falls in with a group of artists, turns his home into their impromptu gallery and comes back to Canada where he coordinates a vernissage of their work at Shäika Café in NDG.

“I never expected to connect with the artists and communities there so intensely,” said John Palov, the teacher who brought the work to Montreal.

He wants to show off the artistic talent of West Africa. While he was teaching in the city of Lomé he became involved with the artistic community there. It started when he wandered into a small local gallery and was intrigued by what was displayed.

“I find it very refreshing,” said Palov. “They really get to take what they’re thinking or feeling and translate that to the canvas in a [special] way.”

He got to know some of the artists, and considering the lack of places they had to display their work, he offered them his home. Seventy paintings, ceramics and sculptures were on display and what was supposed to be a week-long engagement went on for nearly a month.

The artistic community banded together to get the word out and make the spontaneous gallery show a success.

“The power went out [one night] and we thought, well, what are we going to do now? That’s when the fire dancers started doing their whole show, breathing fire.”

Musicians, painters and fire breathers might not be in the crowd at the Shaika Café vernissage this Sunday, but Palov hopes that people will come support the work and ask questions.

He said that not having media like T.V. to shape their understanding of storytelling fostered a unique talent for the artists to express themselves.

Palov is doing this to support the artists and said that the 10 paintings he was able to bring back to Canada are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Story of the Artists / Shaika Café’s Gallery V (5526 Sherbrooke W.) / to Nov. 4 (Vernissage Sun. Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.) / free

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