Close this search box.

When the Internet is not enough

July 27, 2021

Press Release

Ottawa artist Stéphane Alexis turns to family, academics and other resources to research an important part of black history

Ottawa ON, July 27th, 2021 – Ottawa Art Gallery’s Galerie Annexe presents the photo exhibition Stéphane Alexis: Chains & Crowns, until September 12th 2021.

Each photograph features a hairstyle of African descent, beautifully lit, framed and presented with extensive researched information on what the viewer is seeing.

When Internet searches did not deliver all the information needed, Stéphane Alexis decided to look around him to supplement what was missing. Conversations with family members and friends lead to learning about parts of black history he was unfamiliar with, “It seemed that our ancestral culture had been buried away to the point that history had been erased, a lost identity.” explained Alexis. “For example, if you Google search “French Braids”, you will most likely find that a majority of the image results are white women. (…) The issue I have with this is the lack of cultural acknowledgement, and this is necessary because more often than not, we as a global culture are ignorant of the truth.” he added. “Acknowledgment helps to keep a culture alive, allowing customs that have been built to strengthen communities able to endure.”

The result of his research and these conversations is an exhibition featuring portraits of hairstyles, accompanied by text to contextualise braids, twists, rows and cuts; with names, origins, techniques, historical and pop culture information, and lists of similar styles. For example, the artist describes the Frohawk as the combination of two styles: the mohawk and the afro. It is used within Africa to distinguish the warriors of the Mandinka tribe, was popularized in Western culture by Mr. T as well as Usher, and variations may include braiding and shaving the sides.

“Myself, as well as many others, are still learning about the crowns on our heads and how to care for them. So, as we’ve journeyed through this project together, I hope that not only black people but all people will begin to understand the gravity that comes from “black hair”, learning how to love others and ourselves through our locs.” –Stéphane Alexis, artist

A source of inspiration for this project is the artist’s mother, to whom he dedicates the body of work.

Stéphane Alexis is an artist based in Ottawa. His work stems from his personal experiences, demographics, namely within the Black community, and sub demographics in which he belongs, exploring masculinity, and a multi-faceted understanding of healthcare. For each project, a large amount of research is conducted using both lived experiences and external sources to guide project direction. His photo-based work combines both conceptual research-driven design with aesthetic quality. Alexis has a Business Administration Diploma from Algonquin College, a Photographic Arts and Production Diploma from the School of the Photographic Arts (SPAO). At SPAO he won the Award of Artist Merit for Exhibition No. 14, the Lux award for outstanding Lighting techniques, the Albino Pescatore Book Award for book design and thought-provoking content, and the Spectrum Bursary. He has received multiple grants from Ontario Arts Council, as well as being selected for the Karsh Continuum Exhibition 2022 at Karsh Masson Gallery in City Hall. He has exhibited at the SPAO Centre Gallery, Point of View Gallery, Ottawa Art Gallery’s Galerie Annexe, and has collaborated on numerous photo exhibitions across the world.

Stéphane Alexis: Chains & Crowns will run until 12 September, 2021 at Galerie Annexe, 10 Daly Avenue.

Media is invite to a private reception on Thursday July 29th
to meet the artist Stéphane Alexis at Galerie Annexe.
Please email to book your time or for more information.
Space is limited.

OAG is always FREE, but everyone is asked to pre-book visits either online or by phone. Measures are in place in order to keep visitors and staff healthy and safe. Gallery hours are, starting July 21st, Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm.

Press images and artwork information

Stéphane Alexis: Chains & Crowns

OAG location and contact
10 Daly Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1N 0C5, CANADA | 613.233.8699 |

– 30 –

For media enquiries, to book an interview with artist or a tour, please contact:
Véronique Couillard
Officer, Media, Public and Francophone Relations

About the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)
The Ottawa Art Gallery is situated on traditional Anishinābe Aki and is Ottawa’s municipal art gallery and cultural hub. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, the expanded Gallery is a contemporary luminous cube designed by KPMB Architects and Régis Côté et associés.
OAG receives funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa.


OAG is Open from 10 AM to 6 PM Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday | from 10 AM to 9 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission is always FREE.