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

·2 min read
One of Sade Alexis' pieces on display at Hope Meets Action: Echoes Through the Black Continuum. Titled 'We Been Here,' it depicts historic Black figures of B.C. Alexis said she overlapped the drawings to convey a sense of community. (Royal BC Museum - image credit)
One of Sade Alexis' pieces on display at Hope Meets Action: Echoes Through the Black Continuum. Titled 'We Been Here,' it depicts historic Black figures of B.C. Alexis said she overlapped the drawings to convey a sense of community. (Royal BC Museum - image credit)

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.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
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.

Michael McArthur/CBC
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.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
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."

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
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.

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CBC
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