A pop-up souvenir shop exhibited at the Doris McCarthy Gallery speculates the connections between the local landscape and commercial enterprise through the public consciousness of the community.


Excerpt from Tiffany Schofield’s curatorial essay, It can only be this place:

How we define a place that we are not from tends to be entwined with how we consume it through images, media, and products. What would we find in a souvenir shop dedicated to Scarborough? As the point of departure for this exhibition, Hiba Abdallah has approached this question with humour and care, producing a line of products that reconsider the ways in which people identify with and remember place. The objects in her speculative souvenir shop attempt to embody the region’s defining characteristics, however intangible those may be.

In a line of vintage wear, Abdallah has branded items not with the noteworthy architectural gems common to civic memorabilia, but with obsolete businesses. For local residents, many of these symbols hold sentimental value – such as the hat embroidered with the logo of Knob Hill Farms, a supermarket whose legacy lives on in a black shopping basket, ubiquitous in many Scarborough homes. Beyond nostalgia, the products honour the role these commercial spaces have played in suburban life. They are emblematic of the communities that form around these hubs, which have suffered or been lost as dying malls – one of the few social gathering places in the suburbs – disperse into big-box stores.

Souvenir Shop: Scarborough, Ontario pushes the myth of the boring suburb into the realm of cultural commodity, albeit one that remains elusive and incapable of being pinned down. A series of postcards make bold statements: “Where the sweetermans live”; “Where Warden Station beef patties are extra greezy”, recalling specific sites and sounds in the language of Scarborough’s hybrid Patois-derived slang. It’s the kind of cultural capital that’s born here in Scarborough, where diasporas co-mingle, and upon which Toronto as a whole often capitalizes.

*photos by Toni Hafkenscheid