Monday, 3 December 2012

The Habana Gallery Opens

In the year 2000, a young Cuban woman showed up in Thunder Bay with one bag of luggage and no English speaking skills. From a cousin she heard that Thunder Bay was a small and friendly place, close to nature. Four years later she married a local and today Ayesha Raggi is the proud owner and operator of Thunder Bay’s latest gallery space.

Ayesha and her husband Bernie Hailmann worked with friends and family for two years fixing up the location and setting up a gallery at 118 Cumberland Street North, across from the former Cumberland Cinema Centre. They had an opening less than two weeks ago.

The immediate feeling upon seeing the gallery is that of a discovery, like finding a new shop in Grand Mirais, as if it were once a shack stocked with fish and magically turned into a little tourist attraction. As an unassuming little shop it has a rich interior filled with art objects, with floor to ceiling covered walls. It is filled paintings, photography, sculptures and various craft works.

The space also earns its cultural feel with its connections to Cuba. Deep reds accent the walls of white and black. Local artists’ work share the space with necklaces, bracelets and accessories created by Cuban artisans. Ayesha’s mother, Lorenza G Lorenzo produced some of the accessories. As the owner of the space, Ayesha has given herself a special corner to show her own work that extend the logic of the interior design. They are surreal acrylic paintings, and mixed media works on paper evoking the feel of her home country with rich colours of a warm/human modern expressionism. 

Starting with only seven painter’s work, Ayesha plans to change up the walls often to offer the wall to a variety of local artists, and in the future to more Cuban artists. And like any good art space, she is offering Saturday Painting Parties to get people energized to start a new hobby, along with classes in jewelry making and book-binding.

Ayesha was born in Havana, and studied Industrial Design at the University of Havana, along with photography, illustration, and stained glass. Locally she has spent more than seven years in the Learning Through the Arts program, a program which brings artists talents into the schools to help teaching with the curriculum, knowledge that she will use in her programs offered at the shop.

This relates with a statement she makes about one of her works, Far From All. It is “one of my favourite paintings. It talks about my life and feelings. Someone who is looking for changes, someone constantly swimming without finding them, who left her homeland and went to look for independency and opportunities. It is a painting to connect each other in the infinitive sea of our dreams and desires”

For more information drop by the gallery or write to

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