Black artists design exhibit on Black experience at Royal B.C. Museum


A new exhibit at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria is showcasing the past and present experiences of Black British Columbians.

Hope Meets Action: Echoes Through the Black Continuum, which opened on Aug. 14, was created in partnership with the B.C. Black History Awareness Society.

Located in the museum’s Pocket Gallery, the exhibit reclaims the history and retells the stories of B.C.’s Black community through multimedia pieces.

“These stories have been untold. They’ve been whitewashed, they’ve been erased. They’ve been covered up in some ways,” said exhibit curator Joshua T. Robertson.

Exhibit curator Joshua T. Robertson said putting together the exhibit involved working with the Black community to gather stories to feature. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based designer Rodney Hazard helped design the exhibit, which features photography, video interviews, and visual art by Black artists, including the paintings of B.C.-based Sade Alexis. 

Black audiences can also participate by calling a phone number to record their experiences of living in the province. Selected stories will be played at the exhibit, according to the society’s website.

“We created this so that our community can read our own stories and see our own stories and see our own images, and feel held and seen and loved by one another,” said Alexis. 

Silvia Mangue Alene, president of the society, said the exhibit is important because many Black people don’t know about the province’s Black history.

Pictured here in Jan. 2021, Silvia Mangue Alene, president of the B.C. Black History Awareness Society, said the exhibit is important because Black people get to learn about the province’s Black history. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

“When you bring a five-year-old, 10 or 12-year-old Black kid to see this, it gives them pride … to know about the legacy, the rich legacy that these Black pioneers left here in this province,” she said.

Centering Black voices

Chris O’Connor, learning program developer at the Royal B.C. Museum and project manager of the exhibit, said in a phone interview that it’s important for the museum to address historical wrongs and not perpetuate them.

He added that the way to do this was to work alongside the community, rather than on their behalf.

B.C. artist Sade Alexis, left, and exhibit curator Joshua T. Robertson are pictured in Burnaby. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Having Black voices at the centre of the exhibit was part of the reason the B.C. Black History Awareness Society agreed to work with the museum.

“I think that is the way museums should move forward when they work with the community,” said Mangue Alene.

“The museums and institutions, they have to realize that … stories should be told by [the] people that the story belongs to.”

Those involved in Hope Meets Action want people to know that this isn’t a one-off event. The B.C. Black History Awareness Society and the Royal B.C. Museum will be working together to make parts of the exhibit permanent fixtures.

“One of the main messages of this exhibition is that Blackness is a continuum,” said Alexis.

“It’s not an ending point. It’s a starting point.”

Artist Sade Alexis said the exhibit was created so Black people can feel seen and heard. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

 

Hope Meets Action is open to the public for free, and runs until March 2022.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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