"Reunioning" Halima Afi Cassells + Shanna Merola, 2021, Public installation, Sunset Point - Wahnabezee 

“Reunioning” is an interactive, place-based experience, uplifting the rich legacy of Wahnabezee as a site of cultural and ecological celebration. Integrating photo-collage within the natural landscape, viewers follow a visual exploration of the islands delicate eco-system, while paying homage to indigenous foods, wildlife, and history. “Reunioning”  recognizes the unceded, land of Wahnabezee as a historic site of liberation for Black, Brown, and Indigenous Detroiters. Despite centuries of settler-colonial attempts to control and privatize the island it remains - to this day - a site of resistance and joy for majority-Black Detroit. The natural resources of water and land have also provided sustenance for centuries as city residents continue to fish from the same streams inhabited by lake sturgeon who have roamed these waterways for one-hundred and fifty million years. The project, commissioned by Planet Detroit was one of several stops on an interactive map and tour facilitated by the ReStorying Agency Project. On the day of the unveiling, we met with participants at Sunset Point for a wildlife foraging skillshare and walk around the island.


                                        "Swan Song" Halima Afi Cassells + Shanna Merola, 2022, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

Swan Song features the individual and collaborative work of Halima Afi Cassells and Shanna Merola, combining their photo-based collages alongside sculpture and installation. This exhibition examines the cause and effects of colonization, resource extraction, climate crisis, and corporate domination. While Merola’s dystopian landscapes seem fractured beyond repair by free market deregulation, Cassells’ work manifests the collective liberation of both people and land from the grip of white heteropatriarchal systems of oppression.

The swan is a recurring figure, both aesthetically and metaphorically. As an archetype and motif, the graceful creature holds multiple meanings handed down through the centuries and across different cultures. According to ancient Greek mythology, the silent swan sings a beautiful song just before death. As we stand on the precipice of collapse, in the wake of a new paradigm shift, can we also learn to experience joy amidst the terror? 

                                                 "Swan Song" Halima Afi Cassells + Shanna Merola, 2023, Room Project 

“Swan Song” at Room Project elaborates on our initial exhibition launch last fall at MOCAD. In its new iteration we move from summer into autumn once again and invite you to join us for a closing ceremony on the equinox. The exhibition and event are held in  collaboration with Cyrah Dardas and Our Craft of Care - a curatorial project uplifting artists whose practice includes restorative and regenerative art making, care work, and ritual.


                        "Solvent" Halima Afi Cassells + Shanna Merola, 2023, James and Grace Lee Boggs Center 

“Solvent” invokes the world between memory, history, collective storytelling, and liberation at the water’s edge. Located inside the historic home of Civil Rights leaders James and Grace Lee Boggs which continues to serve as a catalyst for visionary organizing, movement building, and self-determining communities in the city of Detroit.  In loving memory of Charity Hicks and Mama Lila Cabbil.



Detroit Resists is a coalition of activists, artists, architects, and community members working on behalf of an inclusive, equitable, and democratic city. We came together to respond to “The Architectural Imagination,” an exhibition at the 2016 Venice Biennale’s U.S. Pavilion. “The Architectural Imagination” appropriates contemporary Detroit as a place for “visionary American architectural practices” to develop “new speculative projects” with “far-reaching applications for cities around the world.” Detroit Resists understands the city differently. We know Detroit as a place where Afrikan, indigenous, and activist-art communities have been building resilience through culturally-literate design. Creating space for Detroiters historically and systematically omitted from conventional architecture’s imaginings. The digital occupation of the U.S. Pavilion uplifts the rich legacy of grassroots design-based activism in Detroit. This is resistance to mass water shutoffs, mass foreclosures, mass evictions, unconstrained gentrification, and other examples of spatial racism. These dynamics are playing out in cities across the globe in distinct but related ways; we invite you to join us in resistance.

Using Format