USask PA campus exhibit puts lens on ‘The Mosaic of Black Joy’

Florence Mudzongo (left) and Tina Bolwe (right) pose for a photo following the opening of ‘The Mosaic of Black Joy and Wellness’ at the USask Prince Albert campus on Tuesday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

What brings black Saskatchewan residents joy? That question forms the basis of a travelling Photovoice exhibit that stopped in Prince Albert this week for a two-day viewing.

‘The Mosaic of Black Joy and Wellness’ officially opened at the University of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert campus on Tuesday. The exhibit features personal reflections from 16 black Saskatchewan residents illustrated by photographs from around the province.

“We wanted to highlight the diversity of the black community,” project lead Florence Mudzongo said during an interview following the official opening. “Saskatchewan continues to be a welcoming place for members of the black community, and as a social worker, I feel that it was so important to help us build community in letting the community know who we are.”

Mudzongo is a social worker and councillor with the University, and founder of the Saskatchewan Association of Black Social Workers. She said the exhibit is a way to push back against anti-black racism by focusing on things that bring black people joy and meaning.

“It’s actually a form of resistance that helps people,” she explained.

“Not only does it help people to be well, but this is also how people continue to reclaim aspects of their humanity and say, ‘this is who I am, and this is what helps me to be well.’ In this project, people are also owning their own cultures, owning their ways of life and ways of being.”

Half of the 16 residents who contributed are university students, while the rest are regular residents. Mudzongo said it was important to include non-students because they bring a different perspective.

The reflections focus on issues like similarities between holiday celebrations in Canada and Nigeria, the importance of communal worship and spirituality, and the joy of overcoming both large and small challenges.

USask practicum social work student Tina Bolwe was part of the research team that helped created the exhibit. Seeing it travel to different Saskatchewan communities has filled her with hope and excitement.

“It is extremely exciting to see how this exhibit has been going,” she said. “This is our third exhibit in Saskatchewan … so we’re very excited and very grateful to see how this exhibit is expanding and continuing to grow.

“It is very important to spread diversity in the community,” she added. “Saskatchewan is continuing to grow and it is important to have forms of representation in every community, so that is why I wanted to be involved.”

Mudzongo and Bolwe came to the project with different experiences. Mudzongo was an immigrant, having moved to Saskatchewan from Zimbabwe, while Bolwe was born and raised in Saskatoon. Both said they’ve had positive experiences living in Saskatchewan, but also said there are still times when they feel unwelcome.

They’re hoping this Photovoice exhibit will help viewers see the humanity in black Saskatchewan residents, and realize residents of all races have a lot in common.

“I hope they find themselves in this exhibit,” Bolwe said. “Whether you’re a person of colour, whether you’re or a visible minority or a white person, I hope that you’re able to relate and just see a different form of representation in the community.”

‘The Mosaic of Black Joy and Wellness’ is open for viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the USask Prince Albert Campus student lounge. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.

The project is funded by the Multicultural Counci of Saskatchewan.

@kerr_jas •