Montreal-based street artist MissMe collaborated with us on the creation of a Sessions 375 poster, on which she introduces us to Marie-Josèphe Angélique, a very strong-minded woman who was a slave in Montreal in the 18th century. Here is the story behind her drawing.
The idea behind the drawing was to talk about a part of Montreal's history that is usually not mentioned or spoken about too much, which is to say almost at all. It's about the 200 years of slavery that happened in Montreal. Most of us don't know about it, so even though it wasn't at all to the extent that the United States practiced, we still had it here and I think my point is always that history is not all good and it's not just about the winners. You also have to deal with the bad parts of history if you want to be honest, heal and become better as a nation.
The woman that I drew is Marie-Josèphe Angélique. She was a slave here in Montreal. She was a woman with a strong personality, a sense of dignity and she tried to run away from her mistress' house a few times. The last time she tried, she did it with the help of her white lover. She got caught and was accused of burning down her mistress' house, which also ended up burning down a big part of Montreal, because a fire, at the time, would start and spread very easily.
She was accused of these crimes, but she always said that she didn't start the fire. She always claimed her innocence, and even under torture she never gave the name of her lover. She was hung in public, and then her body was burned and thrown away.
It is a very hard part of Montreal's history that we don't talk about and it's also the story of a very strong-minded woman that was deeply oppressed by the system and the laws of the city back in the day. We have to always remember that something being "legal" or "illegal" doesn't mean it's good or bad, because slavery was legal, owning people was legal.
It's a very inspiring story in my opinion and an important story to tell. It happened in the 18th century, she died in 1734. When I paste it up, it's going to say "Je Me Souviens 1734".
Because there's no existing image of her and I draw from photography, I decided to take a photo of one of my good friends named Stacy Delince that is a black woman from Montreal. I felt that was the closest I could do to make sense of it without just taking anyone or any image. We used a lot of outfits and a headscarf that looked like what we saw back in the day. In her hand, if you look at the drawing, there's a candle, which could mean hope in darkness, but it could also be a reference to the fire, although she never said that she did it. So it's a double reference. Finally, I put tigers on the image because she seemed to be a very fierce woman.
I learned about Marie-Josèphe last year, and actually when POP asked me to do the poster, they suggested her, which is crazy because I had been wanting to draw her. It was definitely a sign and it was a wonderful opportunity.