Black And Free: Art Exhibition and Symposium deepens, enlivens and expresses themes of blackness and freedom

Posted on Monday March 13, 2023

Waterloo Region – For centuries, Black people all over the world have used visual art, literature, performance, theatre, music and other means of expression to imagine and advocate for freedom in their public and private lives. Started by Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae in 2017, Black And Free is an artistic and academic experience that deepens, enlivens and expresses themes of blackness and freedom projecting expansive visions of what that could be for engaged, curious and casual members of the public.

“I believe in art and artists’ ability to connect, to articulate, to express, and to inspire,” says Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae. “And I believe that if artists, academics, and audiences are thinking about blackness and freedom, good will come of it for all of our society.”

The exhibition at Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum will feature new commissions by artists Emkay Adjei-Manu, Lillian Allen, Sydné Barnes-Wright, A. Decker, Damola Disu, Aljumaine Gayle and Janine Ilya. Each artist's work tells a unique story that explores the multifaceted experiences of blackness and freedom through historic and contemporary lenses.

Come experience the work and join us for conversations with the artists on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 from 12 - 3 p.m. and a presentation by guest speaker Dr. Andrea A. Davis on Sunday, March 25.

Featured Artists:

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Sunday, March 26, 2023


In addition, closed to the public, the Symposium takes place concurrently after hours at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum. During that time, a small group of Black Studies scholars – Dr. Shaunasea Brown, Dr. Ronald Cummings, Dr. Yasmine Espert, Dr. Ferguson, Dr. Nataleah Hunter-Young, Dr. Johonna McCants-Turner and Dr. Ola Mohammed – have been invited to have a series of discussions to collectively reflect on blackness and freedom as expressed in the Art Exhibition and within their own areas of expertise.

Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae is the Principal Investigator of Black And Free research-creation project that brings together artists, academics, students and the following organizations: Citizen Brand; Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum; NOR: The design commons for Canada; Studio Otherness; TheEDGE; THEMUSEUM; Wilfrid Laurier University Press, and Young People’s Theatre.

Through research, partnerships and art, Black And Free examines what Black expressive culture teaches us about blackness and freedom. Dr. Keleta-Mae is the Canada Research Chair in Race, Gender and Performance, an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo and a multi-disciplinary artist.

Black And Free is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Universities and Colleges, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Waterloo.

This exhibition is a partnership between Black And Free and the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum supported by an Ontario Research Fund Research Excellence Grant. Admission and coat check are complimentary. The two-day Black And Free: Art Exhibition and Symposium will take place at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26, 2023 from 12 – 3 p.m.

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