9” x 12”
Beeswax, tree sap resin, powdered pigment
& mixed media on panel
A microaggression is a subtle remark or action, intentional or unintentional, that expresses bias against a minority group of people. Because our society operates using colonial, hierarchical, patriarchal, gender conforming and ableist beliefs, we (myself included) all learn biases from different people throughout our lives, the media we’re exposed to, what we’re taught, the structure of the services we access in our daily lives. This historical oppression carries a lot of weight.
We naturally get defensive if we’re called out for a microaggression because often our bias is unconscious and we have no idea we’re revealing them. We’re not terrible people. We just need to develop an awareness of our biases and how we’re affecting others so we can contribute to living more harmoniously.
While I can be screaming on the inside when faced with a microaggression, in the moment I don’t always have a voice to confront the other person’s denial. It can be emotionally exhausting to educate others with compassion.
Speaking up against a microaggression and gracefully accepting feedback if I say one are muscles I’m learning to flex. I’m finding where the edges of my comfort are so I can stretch myself. If I approach someone about a microaggression, it’s because I trust them to hear me. I’m holding them in friendship, believing they can evolve.
Meet me halfway - do your own research and self-reflection so we can develop our awareness together ♥
See my other paintings at the physical exhibit!
Read or listen to:
by Angelique Bulosan
“Ange, do you think you’ve experienced racism?” I stutter to answer and my response is not adequate.
You ask me if I can teach you to be a better ally. I’m not sure if I know the answer. It’s more than just a checklist that you find on the internet. You don’t know a lot about racism because you haven't been forced to think about it daily. That’s ok. We don’t have control over our skin colour. What we can control is growing our understanding of what it's like for others.
I started my anti-racism journey because I don’t know how to talk to you about this. It used to make me so uncomfortable that being with you made me feel more alone than actually being alone. Racism has affected me everyday since I was born. As I learn about what gives racism its power, I want to process my thoughts about it with you. But these conversations between us often go sour.
I wish I could prepare you for the uncomfortable feelings that will likely arise as we explore this topic. It’s really common for people to feel that they’ve done something wrong or that they're being blamed. Acknowledge your feelings and reactions to help you move forward. And I hope you move forward so we can walk together through this.
I’ve leaped so far in my anti-racism journey that, at times, the distance between us has been weird. I don’t want it to be weird. It takes a lot of courage to be the person in front talking about racism - especially being at the beginning of my journey. I don't know everything. I’m in a frenzy to learn and I'm just processing out loud as I go.
Through my facilitation work I talk to people about mindfully working against racism. People write to me sharing what resonated for them in their session. I’m often eager for the anonymous survey feedback hoping it’ll lead me to insights about a different way to approach you. Maybe then you'll be able to hear me in a way that doesn't hurt or offend you. If I can create a safe enough space, if I can increase my own anti-racist practice, if I speak more eloquently and intelligently... maybe then...
Many people want to support and join the conversation on anti-racism. But few want to be the person taking the brunt of the negativity and disbelief, or the person putting their foot in their mouth. It’s really challenging to live in a world that you can’t see. And learning to be a better ally will bring up some of those uncomfortable feelings when I share with you some of my experiences as a visible minority.
I’ve been told I can’t have something others around me have because I’m brown.
I was instructed to sit with all the coloured kids on the left side of the classroom.
I’ve been told that the adversity I was experiencing as a child was a part of my culture… so it continued.
I’ve been told it’s easier for me to lose weight because I have a petite Asian frame.
I’ve been asked numerous times if I’m my dad’s nurse or care worker.
I was given an "Indian" name that was purposely spoken in "drunken" gibberish by a white man, imitating an Indigenous person.
I’ve listened as the room I’m in achieves consensus on how scary and awkward it is to be the only white person in a crowd.
I’ve been told that people don’t even think of me as a coloured person because they don’t see colour. If they don’t see colour, they can’t begin to see my lifetime of racist experiences.
You are my friend and you matter to me. The compassion and empathy that I hold for you is what I bring to the experiences I had with these people. If you and I can admit that we still have a lot to learn, I’m sure of our ability to explore this together.
It’s ok if we learn something new that causes us to think differently about this than we did yesterday. We can become firmly rooted by exploring our own perspective and broaden our thinking by learning what it’s like for others. Let’s learn about my ethnic origin and yours - you aren’t simply white, you have cultural roots too. The land we’re on has a history we can learn about. We can make a recipe from another country, read a book or watch a movie by someone who’s a different race than us. Let’s check out cultural celebrations and other events. I know we’ll find so many ways to enjoy learning together.
Let me know what you think about this! I’m eager to hear from you.
"Racism is a gigantic topic. The reason why I developed Color Theory is to be able to explore and share what I’m learning in community with others; to care for and nurture the community I live in.
This exhibit is about using the privilege we have to effect positive change.
It can be challenging to speak out when we feel we don't know enough. But we'll never know enough - especially on our own.
And we don't have to be perfect.
Let's participate actively in anti-racism by sharing wisdom as we gain it."
"My Name is Dahlila Charlie, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a Coast Salish artist from Victoria, BC. I grew up surrounded by artistic and creative people which has inspired me to become an artist myself. I draw from stories, myths and cultural teachings. I incorporate Coast Salish formline with nature and realism in acrylic paint, my preferred medium. Painting has always been a passion of mine. I learned how to paint in high school and then worked on murals in Victoria. I continue learning from mentors and teaching myself techniques. Through my artwork I connect to my roots as an Indigenous woman. I use art to share my thoughts, ideas, and to evolve as an artist. "
15” x 11”
This piece invites you to put yourself into my art
Whoever you may be
Exactly as you stand
While initially imagining I would pick and use vibrant, bright pieces of glass to create this piece, it ended up being these subtle neutrals that spoke the loudest for their spot here and in my accompanying story.
Something that might also speak to my character in more ways than I thought up myself. When backlight (ie hanging in front of a window) the darkest shades shift and expose hidden details in the glass that might go unnoticed within quick glances.
Maybe you will find something within that speaks to your character also.
Go on, try it.
Read or listen to:
by Jade Anais
Voted as the favourite story of the Colour Theory Creatives!
"In this exhibit I hope to see all of us art-mates feeling fully free and confident in expressing all of the things we’ve wanted and needed to say about our journey, experiences, and work without holding back.
“I’m hoping this exhibit will create a place where anyone will be able to come with questions and an open mind knowing they will be met without judgement, and be answered with honesty."
~ Jade Anais
I learned what the colour of my skin meant on the internet
really, I am Self Taught
I went looking for a void in which to yell the anger of everything I didn’t yet understand. Somewhere to outsource the sadness and confusion of being deserted here, ill equipped, by the grown ones we’re all told to look up to, to watch, and to see because they’ve spent more time here than us.
But it was in this void I learned about the grown ones
And how they were supposed to teach me how to move my darkened body safely through this place. Safely through experiences and through histories not found on shelves easily reached
And about they were meant to teach me how to love, and how to love myself with fewer expectations of the fetisizations I would see and turn to
But neither could stay here
And either way they didn’t know how to see me, they weren’t able, for in the contrast of their darks and their lights there was no margin for the grey they had made.
But there wasn’t where I was needed to stay, there has never been the end goal
And so the void - sometimes loud and sometimes mean - spoke back urging me to follow closely, tread slowly, but make my way in.
And I did
and it cupped both of my hands so they could fill with the fluids of languages my thirsty roots wound deep in search of.
But it also
stripped me of my clothes and made me stand starving next to bodies that were warm, glistening, and imprinting, but that held no shadows. Bodies that have only knows blue skies
But bright lights create the darkest shadows
Shadows I could move freely in
And I did
And It showed me distant solid grounds where all sharp rocks lay covered in thick mosses, but there the flowers never bloomed.
And it showed me where parched deserts touched with seas too cold to swim in.
It took me to shining cities with gated communities where it scolded me for my body did not glisten correctly
And it took me to dirt streets where it shamed me because I did not earn my strong brown back the same way as the others there.
All the while it never stopped pointing
And removing all my invisible armour
It’s fingers tangle in my curly hair as it strokes my head and whispers reasons to be angry in my ear
And I won’t deny that I like it
By now I am familiar with the deep mahogany feeling of this yearning
And in these moments I’ll fight to hold onto that yearning for as long as possible, forever if it will have me. In it sweet familiarity
But the whispers become ever more demanding of my emotions, my body shakes, blood pulses
yet simultaneously more unforgiving of the natural ugly reaction
Not allowing me to break my gaze from the public degradation of poor brown souls like mine
Or clench my fists to stop the chewing of my lips
By this time I know whats happening, but I cannot close my eyes
Even tho they are hurting
tear ducts swollen open
- - -
now here you are
With me in this space
With a story that must seem to be ending abruptly even tho all sings say we’re only somewhere in the middle of the beginning
To speak earnestly it hasn't all been horrible and monstrosities
There is love here, and I experience it knowingly
but where else can I look to learn what plans a place might have for me
Other than the void to watch, and to see
11” x 17”
Copper wire, cedar, operculum, LED lights
“Little tiny bits of the light that she held onto inside her heart. She kept it hidden and tried to hold onto the light she had left.”
This piece is unlike anything else I’ve made. For this Colour in Theory exhibition I wanted to challenge myself, and this piece definitely did that. It is an optimistic piece of survival, surviving the harsh world we live in.
Read or listen to:
by Kristy Crawford
Imagine for a second:
A little girl, eyes full of wonder and hope. The world was full of wonder and amazement. Each and every moment that passed was viewed with her adoring optimistic hope for everything in the world to turn out perfectly for everyone.
If she was growing up in this world,
would she be able to keep her hope?
Or would someone or something smash the light and leave her with only fragments of the light?
Slowly and repeatedly smash her light. So much that eventually there would be just the littlest bit left.
Little tiny bits of the light that she held onto inside her heart. She kept it hidden and tried to hold onto the light she had left.
As she ages, she realizes that it isn’t HER fault that she was treated differently because of the skin she was born in.
All the horrible comments and remarks that she had received in her life were not her fault.
Realizes that SHE isn’t the problem.
That being Haida, is NOT something to be ashamed of.
That her mere existence is a gift.
Her people have survived the genocide.
Her people survived.
Haida people, her people. Survive.
Which means she can and will survive, despite all of the racism in the world.
Holding onto her light in her heart.
She will survive!
"I hope this exhibition will shed some much needed light on the racism that is everywhere in this world." ~ Kristy Crawford
22.5” x 28”
Charcoal on paper
This artwork brings two messages. The first is that regardless of race or background, we are all similar. In an ultrasound picture, everyone looks the same and skin tone is not apparent.
The other message that I considered while creating this artwork is how concepts of racism affect a person from such a young age, even as soon as they are born. As someone who is of Mediterranean heritage and currently pregnant, I can’t help but wonder how this will affect my child, and how to educate them about racism in general.
Read or listen to:
Where Are You From?
by Laura Rechwan
There comes a time when you realize that you are not like everyone else. Your skin is different, your hair is different, and the way you were raised isn’t the exact same as the other people around you. But are you treated differently because of this?
For some, this racism starts at a very young age. For me, it was certainly in elementary school that my peers had excluded me from activities based on the fact that I was “brown”. Even now, at twenty-six years old, I find it challenging to embrace my identity and culture as a Lebanese-Canadian woman while knowing that I am still treated differently based on the way I look. Have you ever asked someone, “where are you from”, when you actually meant to find out what their race or cultural background is? Since I’ve been asked this question enough times, I sometimes clarify “do you mean what is my race or cultural background, or where my family is from?”, and the response is usually a sheepish yes. I know that my friends who are white are almost never asked this layered question. I also know that telling someone I was born in southern Ontario isn’t going to answer their question when they are asking based on my appearance. Thus, I feel I must make a decision to either give the person the answer they are looking for - that I am half Lebanese - and move on with the conversation, or to take the time to educate them and question the motive of their inquiry in the first place. In the past, I usually answered that I am Lebanese and moved on. However, as I focus more on the ways I can challenge racism and learn from other BIPOC individuals, I am more recently inclined to point out the inappropriateness of the question, and attempt to educate the other person. This puts a risk on myself since people don’t always enjoy when you point out that they’ve done something wrong, but, I feel now that it is a necessary step to take in moving against racism.
Also, there is a weird hybrid space, between being “white” and being “brown” which I find myself in. Because I’m of mixed races between half Lebanese and half French-Canadian, there is exclusion that I experience from both groups. I believe that meetings and discussions such as this Colour Theory program, which bring together individuals from different racial and cultural backgrounds, are very beneficial in the fight against racism. For me, sharing experiences within this BIPOC group made me realize that although we are from different races and backgrounds, there are many similarities in the way others view and respond to our differences. Since talking about my race has been a new experience for me, hearing that others are having the same or similar interactions allowed me to open up further and dig deeper into my own understanding of the racism that I and others experience. While racism can be a very isolating experience, knowing that others are having the same interactions has made the experience more bearable since I no longer feel as isolated as before. In turn, this also motivates me to continue the dialogue with others.
Here, in the physical location of Victoria BC, located in the traditional Lekwungen territories, one of my biggest desires is to be an ally and a force of change and support to the local First Nations people whose land we occupy. While I will admit that I still struggle with finding ways to support this cause which actually make a difference, I have been dedicating myself to learning what is needed, and how I can help in a meaningful way.
When considering changes and challenges currently in the world in the face of racism, I have realized that we are at a point of opening the dialogues. There is no single explanation for racism still happening. There is no single answer to defy racism. What is important is that the conversations about racism become more common. Like learning anything new, this may be uncomfortable for some, including myself. If there is one major take-away from this Colour Theory program, it is the importance of starting and continuing the conversations because nothing will change if we don’t talk about it. Even if it is messy, even if it feels slow, just being present and listening with caring and authenticity and the intention to do good, is what is needed right now. The more the dialogue happens, the easier it flows and changes, and the more comfortable we can become with creating change against racism.
"I hope this exhibit will extend the conversation surrounding anti-racism and give both the artists and exhibition viewers new tools and points of entry into a respectful dialogue." ~ Laura Rechwan
9’’ x 4’’ x 10’’
Masking is an embroidered textile artwork that condemns the Anti-Asian Racism during the first wave of COVID-19 and its lasting scarring to people, culture, and society.
Wearer's insecure inner thoughts and brassy outer judgements were embroidered over each other as different culture values collided on both sides of the mask.
The means of embroidery was deliberately chosen to mimic the painful experience in racism as sharp needles poking through the soft material of the mask with irreversible damages leaving behind.
Read or listen to:
A Story about Cultural Racism, Self-Location, and Lateral Violence
by Leting Cai
I have been spending a lot of time wondering who I am and how I self-locate in my existence. I am biologically Asian, my nationality is Chinese, I am a bisexual woman, but how do I belong beyond social construct?
I was born in Shanghai, China, a city that was highly influenced by Western culture as it was forced to open as treaty ports to European trade after the First Opium War. I studied at a Canadian high school in China before I moved to Victoria. Then I had another 6 years of Western postgraduate education.
I didn’t feel like I was exposed to enough Chinese traditions during my 9 years of examination-oriented education to bond with my Chinese identity, and yet I didn’t think I belonged to any Western society because of the lack of knowledge and “common senses” growing up in a Western environment. I was culturally modified to fit in the trend of globalization with a bit of everything.
My culture inconclusiveness seemed fine when I was growing up under the same cultural shield with all the other globalized kids around, but it later on revealed that my lack of ethnic settlement was problematic especially during the long and lonely longing in the time of COVID-19 quarantine when I tried to find my self-belongingness over the tsunami of nostalgia, anti-Asian prejudice and cultural racism.
For my 6 years living in Canada, I have experienced racism and discrimination here and there through my appearance, my gender, my education, and more. Sometimes people just couldn’t believe that I am a well-educated Chinese woman, who has good manners, and says NO to things. In 2020, the outbreak of Coronavirus started the Asian Hate all over the world especially in the west. Prejudice and name-calling were put upon Asians as the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China. Coronavirus was referred to as the ‘Chinese Virus’ in some media. And Asians, particularly Chinese people, were blamed with hateful accusations. And by this extraordinary period of time, I encountered my first major cultural racist event as an Asian during the first wave of COVID-19.
Before the BC health ministry recommended medical masks as an efficient tool for preventing Coronavirus, masks-wearing was not suggested or “accepted” because the WHO referred to such behaviour as an emergency solution only when you were sick. However, Chinese health authorities along with my family held another opinion that everyone should wear a medical mask in public since it was one of the most efficient ways to stop the spreading of the virus as one’s own social responsibility. With two media quarrelling about their opposite social practices and cultural beliefs aggressively around me, I got trapped in a limbo of values. It was either wear a mask and face discrimination, or dodging prejudice but living in panic that people might pass sickness onto me. My friends and I were so scared to even just go out to the grocery stores because of all the resentful judging gazes that were yelling to us about how we should not co-exist for who we are and what we believe.
One after another, friends decided to go back to China permanently and left their lives in Canada behind to escape from this social virus of racism. With such a divide between my culture values and my social belongingness, I started to wonder where and how did I actually fit into my so-called community physically and culturally?
With the anti-Asian racism striking all over the world, cultural racism didn’t just stop between different biological races; it provoked lateral violence in between different Asian groups. When the majority of racists continued targeting Asian people for pandemic, Asians with different nationalities started to accuse Chinese people for dragging them down to this Anti-Asian racism vortex. Hateful messages were blooming on the internet. People were making t-shirts that specifically said directional blames such as “I am not Chinese” or other abusive words to demonstrate their alliance with the majority of racists in order to avoid attacks on themselves. However, internalized segregation never truly protects any minority groups from hate and prejudice but reinforces more damage to the situation because racism was never personal. What we need is “lateral support” not lateral violence.
It was a dark period of time for all humans. Although I got so painfully shut out from the western culture and society, my sense of identity and belongingness unexpectedly emerged clear for the first time.
At the forefront of the pandemic and the anti-Asian racism, I was feeling so hurt, confused, and unheard from the media and my multicultural intimate relationship at the time so I decided to make an artwork to the public to share how the racist events had emphasized the torment of the pandemic. The artwork was an embroidered medical mask with voices that were collected from social media, my peers, and my personal experiences about how it felt as Asians and the only ones who wore masks out in public at the time.
I was very scared about having this work out on social media because it was controversial and I was never a confrontational person in real life, but I was so repressed that my anger eventually overcame my vulnerability for me to build up courage to share my insights, as an Asian, to condemn this craziness and unfairness and to support my people.
I didn’t expect much feedback; nor should I say that I was scared of any feedback because I wasn’t sure if I was ready for internet hatreds, but then something wonderful happened.
Immediately after I posted my work and insights on Instagram, many of my international peers and friends from China reached out to me saying how much they were touched and appreciative that I came forward to speak up for “us”. People with zero connections before were confronting and comforting each other with their vulnerabilities through sharing experiences and wounds in the comment section. It was finally a safe place to express and unload. People thanked me for supporting them with the defence that they weren’t able to unveil but they didn’t realize that it was actually them, their backing and strength, supported me and rescued me from my withering standing of self-existence.
Not until that very moment did I realize that I might be nomadic, but I was never alone.
I had a family of people who shared the same pain and confusion with me the whole time. We might be lost in the drizzling realities of differences but we will find each other as long as we keep trying.
I belong with justice.
I belong with my belief in love and kindness.
I belong with differences.
And I will always celebrate the diversity of it.
"I am looking forward to seeing all of the real, honest, but also vulnerable works from this amazing group of artists, who are so brave and kind to open up their hearts and scars for starting this conversation about Racism and Anti-racism. I hope this art exhibit is not just a wake-up call for the discriminations and prejudices that are happening right now but also an educational journey of love, respect, and diversity for all of us humans. "
~ Leting Cai
We are Human
18” x 20”
Cotton thread on fabric
My artwork seeks to counter the dehumanizing effects of racism and white supremacy.
I hand stitched faces inspired by my friends and younger cousin surrounded by blossoms to celebrate the fullness of our humanity and beauty as people of the global majority.
The floral design is influenced by Cantonese ceramics and embroidery as well as my grandmother’s pajamas.
Read or listen to:
by Macayla Yan
394 days. Or, one year and 29 days. That’s how long I managed to stay in a racist workplace.
A few years ago, I worked at a local non-profit that provides day programming to adults with developmental disabilities. From my first day, I recognized that this was a place that I would need to be cautious about. From my first interaction with a full-time non-supervisory staff, honestly.
I was being oriented to one of the team spaces when a colleague persistently pressured me to disclose where I was really from, although I repeatedly stated Victoria. Another co-worker joined in with annoyance to explain to me what she meant, as if I did not know. With two people hounding me, and on my first day, I decided to just give in and say I’m Cantonese. “Oh! Chinese, Japanese, Korean - it’s all the same to me!” Great.
From there it didn’t get much better. Whether it was being called the name of the only other East Asian employee by a white colleague I had already spoken to several times, or listening to white team members describe racialized clients as difficult, but white clients much more endearingly, I soon had enough.
I started to just focus on serving the clients. My supervisor asked me to create a 12-week Indigenous Studies curriculum so I could “teach them about totem poles.” Of course, since Lekwungen People and other Coast Salish Nations did not have totem poles, I taught them about house posts. I also taught them about land-based stories, ancestral food systems, residential schools, cultural resurgence, and more. As empathetic and bright people, the clients pieced together the bigger picture on their own. “Wait, if people lived here first and settlers took the land without even paying, then we should give the land back?” Some of them, unprompted by me, decided to write to Justin Trudeau about how they believe Indigenous children deserve clean drinking water and to learn their cultures.
According to the organization, this was unacceptable. I got called to my director’s office, where he reprimanded me for putting their government funding at risk. I was shocked. I got in trouble for respecting the clients’ wishes and allowing three adults to write their Prime Minister about human rights? Okay.
After about a year of working for this organization, I decided to ask for anti-racism training for all 100+ employees because I thought a systemic intervention would be the most helpful preventative measure for the organization. I was particularly thinking about the well-being of the five other employees of colour. I told my team coordinator and our director, the same one mentioned above, who called me into another meeting.
During the meeting, this white man made it clear that he did not think racism was a problem at the organization, especially due to the lack of reported incidents under the anti-bullying and harassment policy. I told him that I didn’t think most of the situations were intentionally harmful and I was not looking for punishment. Rather, I viewed it as a systemic problem that required training for everyone. I even offered to provide it. He asked for examples, and I gave some, but he denied that they were racist. Feeling a bit dejected, I tried to explain to him logically that we live in a society founded on racism that never went away, and I asked how he thought none of that racism entered into this workplace. At this point, I suppose he had enough because he abruptly ended the meeting, stating that we would need to talk about it another time with more managers and a union representative (all white) involved.
A week passed, I did not hear anything from him, and I gave my two week notice of resignation, citing an unsafe workplace for myself as a person of colour.
To be honest, I wish this story wasn’t true. I wish this large non-profit organization was as welcoming and inclusive as they proclaimed to be. I wish I did not face racial and ableist microaggressions while working there. I wish the full humanity of me and all the clients were upheld, affirmed, and celebrated. I wish the organization cared more about anti-racism than an image of being “not racist.” I wish that director could set aside his defensiveness to be able to fully listen to what I was saying and just believe me.
In a society that often shames, silences, and/or assails us for speaking up about our experiences of oppression, I urge you to please recognize our humanity and believe us.
"I hope this exhibit will move people. I hope our stories and art stir people internally and shift them towards anti-racist action in their communities and spheres of influence so we can collectively propel systemic change and build a more just world."
~ Macayla Yan
Children of this World
polyptych piece: 4 panels of 20x16 each
Asia intends to represent all Asian Communities.
Kimi intends to represent the Aboriginal people, First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities across the world.
Malachiah Intends to represent the All the black communities across the world.
Zahid intends to represent the Middle Eastern communities across the world.
Living in a world where we often fear what we do not know, and more commonly than not we segregate, discriminate, judge and sometimes even punish based on colour of skin, religion, cultural differences, accents, etc.
The intention behind this collection is to put faces to the many children that did not choose to be born here or there, that didn’t have a say what their skin would look like or which religion their families would worship and believe in this or the other doctrine, where they would be born, what the social perception of them would be, and yet, they are being juggled around as domino pieces in a game.
A game that they have not a say but their lives keep ending even before starting SOLELY because of these “reasons”.
Just like with The Six Seeds… that were carried out in the wind, we do not choose none of these things, but they should not be a justification for anyone to look down on anyone.
See Mara's other artwork at the physical exhibit!
The Six Seeds
by Mara Syzp
This is a story to invite you and yours to think.
I hope you enjoy it.
There was a flower whose seeds were in its petals.
Once her life reached maturity those seeds would be carried by the wind through the air, landing in soil and growing into a plant of their own. And with blessings, would blossom as well.
6 Six seeds made it that springtime.
One traveled FAR and reached a land of opportunities, where magical things were to unravel for it. Following old traditions.
One traveled EAST and found a home within the cracks of the dry soil and with much effort it was able to reach a spot where it would try its best and to grow and thrive. The struggle was immense, but it was about being the best it could be and standing its ground.
One traveled WEST, where there was an immense abundance of water, but so many other plants to compete with. So, the soil, the sun and the rain were a daily battle amongst them all.
One traveled SOUTH where it was colourful and musical, and there the seed found a place that didn’t have much of anything, but it had the will to try and be it's better version with what it had.
One traveled NORTH where it was incredibly cold. The soil was frozen, but it made it to a tiny bit of soil where it held on as strong as it could, making itself small to contain the little heat it had left to try and survive.
And the last seed CLOSE fell right at the feet of the matured plant where it had come from.
The 6 seeds were born from the same mother and yet they all ended up in completely different terrains.
Different climates, different food sources, different environments to prosper and grow.
Culturally different because each place would require a different set of skills to reach the minimal essentials they would need to survive.
The seed that made it FAR had its skin shimmer with all the magical and abundant resources, it grew from infancy learning to be the best at everything. Sometimes with too much pressure but excelling.
The seed that made it EAST had its skin darken like clay. Growing most of the time under a scorching sun. Almost burning it but without burning. It would grow strong and defiant.
The seed that made it WEST had its skin grow thick leaves and roots to help it hold on tightly to the swampish terrain. It would prosper and propagate.
The seed that made it SOUTH had its skin warm in tone. It would resist times without water or times under the sun making it gold. It would learn to appreciate the small things.
The seed that made it NORTH had its skin ivory and delicate. Thin. Weak. Beautiful but too delicate. It would seek to conquer other places to prosper and grow.
And the seed that fell CLOSE, right at the feet of its mother plant, looked just like mother.
Each would live an incredible life.
FAR would grow without missing anything. It would have everything it ever wanted at its fingertips. And when in turn it had to bear its own seeds, they would be born of extreme abundance, and would not survive without living in a place exactly like where they were born.
EAST would have plenty of seeds; its seeds would be so many because sadly, it knows that many of them would not make it. It grows many seeds to give itself a bigger chance of survival. East’s dark skin would make it stand out from everyone else’s. And because of that, other plants would fear them, judge them, and try to stop them from growing. But they would not succeed. EAST would grow no matter what. And it would be stronger than most.
WEST would evolve and instead of seeds in the air it would propagate under the earth through its roots. Finding possibilities to continue growing in a balanced relationship with the land. Respecting it and worshiping it and in return, the land and all its creatures would allow safe passage to the ever-expanding roots and WEST would grow beyond its limits.
“South” would be seen as different everywhere it would go; its golden tone would make others envious of it and others would try to make them look as if they weren’t good enough. But SOUTH, so close to its own roots, would get the strength from them to keep going. The roots would always be flowing with rich nutrients, water, and food. And SOUTH would learn to survive and prosper no matter where they would end up.
“North” would be seen as perfection. And although its roots and its growth would be at times stunted by the lack of warmth and for not having grown healthy strong roots as each seed would be for its own. Somehow, they would be the admiration of everyone else. North would keep to itself and grow in small groups. It would become a rarity and yet be the one that judges everyone else based only on their own inabilities to have what others have.
And the one "Close”it would just do exactly as its predecessors did before it, and after it. It would not excel, it would not want to get better, it would not want to grow too much or too little. It will just be. It would see how others fight to better themselves, it would witness the desperate need of East, it would witness the abuses West and South would endure, but it would remain unmoved.
In their own way, each seed would grow beautiful plants with truly unique and gorgeous flowers. Each with their perfumes and their own thorns.
In their own way, each would live the best life they could, but they would go about it in different ways.
Some make it on their own, focusing on their roots, their families, their values. Some travel in the air to other terrains and exploring, learning, improving, some invading other places and taking the space of the ones that were before without thinking about the implications of their actions, or who they were hurting.
And some simply…being.
Do you think Mother Nature ever thought that its seeds would hurt each other?
Do you think that to survive it would justify any means to do so?
Do you think not respecting others and just taking is the way to go?
Do you think some have more rights than others or some are better than others?
-Then why do you live your life allowing that to happen all around you, making yourself blind to it and continuing with your life like if nothing was happening?
"I am hoping this will open the eyes of many people who have chosen to not look.
There are incredible human beings amongst us that we choose to disregard based on their race, the colour of their skin, their background and accents.
The skills, qualities as a person, characters and all the amazing things they could bring to your life, giving a fair chance, are being wasted away.
Art should be seen by the soul. Judged by the connection you feel with each piece and the talent creating it, disregarding completely who the artist is, where they are from, what their religious beliefs are, etc."
~ Mara Szyp
Matilde Cervantes Navarrete
Unlocking Drinking Water Equity
12” x 16”
Acrylic on canvas
First of all, here are three facts,
---Climate change is real!
---Bees are essential to life!
---Boil Water AdvisorIes are real in Canada!
Do you know that Canada has 50 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 31 First Nations communities? (Government of Canada-updated August 9, 2021). As an artist, an international health researcher and public health advocate, what comes to my mind is that we need to keep advocating for safe, clean water for everyone.
It's time to end environmental racism. Stay informed, do not assume everyone has clean water in Canada and get involved in initiatives to address water challenges around the world and in Canada (especially in Indigenous communities in Canada) through education, training and meaningful collaborations. Remember that equity recognizes people’s different stories and backgrounds and how people will need specific resources and opportunities aligned to their context and circumstances to really achieve an equal outcome. Let’s unlock drinking water equity and end environmental racism!
P.S. ----BEE Grateful for Bees!
See Matilde's other artworks at the physical exhibit!
Read or listen to:
A day with (out) water
by Matilde Cervantes Navarrete
I want to share a story of a day with myself and my inner conversations, it is a story between fiction and reality. It is formed to inform, but it seems to me that there is less fiction and more crude reality, but, I will leave this to your own decision.
--------Imagine a beautiful and sunny day. ----------I was lying on the grass watching the clouds pass over my head, and I heard some nearby bees in the garden next to me. I started to reflect on the phrase, "Representation Matters," and I wondered how important this is because it gives visibility to diversity and empowers the oppressed. ----------------Ooooh, the oppressed! What a harsh word; it makes me feel sad but also empowered with faith and hope for liberation and not only for survival.
Suddenly, the bees came closer to me. Then, I decided to move to another area, but still thinking about representation, oppression and the bees. --------------Oooh, the bees! They are so crucial for our daily lives even if we are not aware of them; they are interconnected with several ecosystems that allow diverse species to coexist, including the human race.
After spending a while in the garden, a delicious breeze started-------- yes, the golden hour was closer. --------------That magical time during sunset when I do ceremony, expressing my gratitude for another day and making some wishes for days to come as my father taught me.
We are so lucky, I thought------ Life is good!----------- Life has many colours, savours, textures. Still, there is a danger-----for example, the dangers of stigma and racism.
Then, I reflect on racism and the different ways it can show up; there is not a single manifestation of racism; it has many masks and costumes. So it comes in many forms.
After sunset-------I started to feel thirsty and was ready for a cool shower to refresh my body and wrapped up my warm day.
While I was taking a shower, I started to remember that lately, I have heard opinions in the media about the heat waves warnings at the West Coast in BC, Canada.------Uff ------ Climate change is real!
Yeah!------------But also, racism is real. ---------------I thought environmental racism was real! And climate change, and then I recall the protest at the Legislature two years ago where I saw a slogan used by the global climate justice movement “system change not climate change," and well, what can I say-----this idea of social change resonates so much with my life mission.
-------------After my cool shower, I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, a chicken soup for the soul and a fresh lemonade.
While I was cooking, I question myself,
Hey ----- Could you imagine a day without water?
Water is Life, right?
We need water to survive!
Indeed, water supply is a basic human right, but in Canada, some people face water access, affordability, and quality problems.
Then, the long-term drinking water advisories came to my mind.
Have you ever heard about the Boil Water Advisory?
I recently learned that the First Nations Health Authority's Environmental Public Health Services (EPHS) provides advice to communities on drinking water safety.
I Googled to search facts and found that, for example, Boil Water Advisory (BWA): "Issued as a preventive measure when the water in a community's water system is known or suspected to have disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause illness; or when water quality is questionable, and boiling will remove the contaminant from the water."
Wow! This is a life threat!
Disease, bacteria, virus, illness, all those words are scary!
Then--------- I found myself trying to understand how it is possible that water-related issues disproportionately affect Indigenous communities in Canada.
------Canada has 50 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 31 First Nations communities (updated August 9, 2021). Indigenous communities sometimes don't have clean water, and climate change is making things worse. This is even more urgent as COVID-19 continues to spread globally.
----------Ufff, so, I finished my dinner and went to bed, but before doing so, I brushed my teeth and prayed for the bees, the Indigenous communities, the oppressed, the public health professionals and the all human race.
I could not reconcile my dreams because my thoughts were still pretty active. I even started to dream about eco-justice and climate justice and wondered if the water advisories in Canada may be somehow related to environmental racism?
Finally, I slept for 7 hours and had beautiful dreams with trees, rivers, oceans, forests, biodiversity and, of course, the abundance of clean, safe, and affordable water for all ---------without the dangers of racism. It was a big and beautiful dream.
Could my dream be real or unreal?
Well, ------Nature makes this real, but humans make it unreal because of racism. Racism has many faces and masks. Racism comes in many forms. Racism is a dangerous killer because racism kills!
As an artist and a public health advocate, what comes to my mind is that we need to keep advocating for safe, clean water for everyone.
I believe in Indigenous peoples' right to self-government and self-determination and we must support the steps toward reconciliation.
What can we do?
How could we help?
Here are three ideas:
1) Stay informed, do not assume everyone has clean water in Canada and get involved in initiatives to address water challenges around the world and in Canada (especially in Indigenous communities in Canada) through education, training and meaningful collaborations.
2) Educate yourself and set the tools from a rights-based approach to ensure an advocacy work that also considers other related important rights such as health and non-discrimination.
3) Read about environmental racism and the implications of the lack of clean water in Indigenous communities.
It's time to end environmental racism, there are many masks and faces, but today, we can spread the word about the long-term advisories on the water in the First Nations in Canada as one of the many steps to end environmental racism.
P.S. -----And remember-----BEE grateful for bees!
“I’m hoping to celebrate diversity through art work; I aim that our art work will evoke reflections to promote positive social change towards a community that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion as part of a healthy society.
“I hope the Theory of Color Group’s work will contribute to key social conversations to tackle stigma, and other “ism” (e.g. racism, ageism, sexism, classism, ableism). I seek to be part of the collective’s efforts to reclaim power and celebrate unity in diversity.”
~Matilde Cervantes Navarrete
36” x 48”
Oil on canvas
It’s nearly impossible to feel fully seen by others who do not share your lived experience.
Never Seen shares the isolation BIPOC experience facing systemic barriers in a white society, while also showing the support we (BIPOC) can provide to one another within it.
Nude and vulnerable BIPOC forms are hidden amongst the cedar trees to illustrate how privilege can limit what you see and understand.
The chaotic interweaving of human and tree boughs also encourages your mind to explore the limitations privilege has in understanding environmental racism.
Proceeds from this painting will feed into further racial and environmental justice work.
Read or listen to:
Small Town, Minority Stress
by Robyn Jin
Have you ever been asked: What are you?
When I was 13 years old, I moved from a diverse city to a rural town. The first questions I was always asked were, “Are you Native?” or “What are you?” or “Are you Chinese?”. It’s funny, it actually took me a while to realize they were referring to my physical appearance. I’m sure I came off a bit stunned, but I think all of us can sympathize with how hard it is to answer a question you’ve never been confronted with before. Once I figured out my answer, I was happy to share my Korean background with anyone who asked.
I was one of maybe four Asian American and Pacific Islander students at our school and the longer I spent time in my rural school, the more I was confronted with unyielding cultural representations or popular stereotypes of the Asian person. I was greeted in the hallways with poor Chinese accents, barbarized English, and made-up Chinese words. I was told my food was smelly by friends and shown dehumanized impersonations of my family by the boys. I started wondering if that’s how my Korean family spoke. I was anxious and couldn’t feel my body when this happened. My response was often to look down and giggle so that I felt blended in with everyone around me.
Again and again, I was asked ‘What are you?’ by new acquaintances. Yet, instead of being happy to share my background, my body began to freeze as I recited my answer. My past taught me that sharing my race with the wrong person led to these endless and horrible impersonations. I didn’t get it. These jokes put my stomach in knots but everyone else, my closest friends were giggling. I was a novelty and a chance for my peers to use racialized humour like they saw in stand up comedy shows. I couldn’t bear the thought of having a different sense of humor than my peers. The result was me lowering my eyes, looking away and allowing one giggle to escape my tightened throat. My attempts at advocating for my race were timid, quiet, and often met with incredibly painful silence.
Asian jokes were a pennyworth to the number of jokes made at or about my Indigenous peers and when I heard them a pit in my gut sank with a burning drop. It always felt so wretched, but I felt so alone in that experience. I felt like a minority without knowing the word minority. I was experiencing racism and microaggressions without knowing the words to put to those actions. I was never taught by a teacher of colour, I never saw these jokes challenged by our parents, I never saw another opinion that resonated with my internal experience.
For the many years following, minority stress, stereotype threat, and fear of judgement all became routine responses for my body whenever I was asked my background. I froze, answered, waited for impending jokes, giggled, and filled with shame.
And then, something amazing happened. The North American Indigenous Games came to Cowichan in the summer of 2008. I was working at Sport Check and NAIG teams were coming into the store by the bus load. I was flooded with athletes and coaches asking if I was competing in the games or if I was from the Cowichan Tribe. I was being asked where I was from, but this time it felt so different. I felt safe.
The teams in the store made people of colour a majority. It made me a part of the majority. This eliminated the sense of othering, the minority stress, stereotype threat, and poor social support I faced head on when asked the same question in a white dominated room. It was a celebration of our colours with both parties truly interested.
I tell this story today to summarize how much BIPOC’s cumulative experience can make one question like ‘Where are you from?’ a threat. Being called out for being different in a white dominated space can be intensely threatening. It comes with reminders of many instances of feeling less than, othered and being in the ‘out group’. In my case it comes with the immense shame for all of the past experiences I let others dehumanize my family or Indigenous peers and all I did was giggle
It makes me wonder how many students of colour in small towns are rewriting my history with lowered eyes and giggles.
“I hope this exhibit is felt in the hearts of our community. I hope each of our artists’ works will resonate with different audience members great enough to shift prejudice and intergenerational patterns of racism.”
How to Survive Genocide in Three Generations
7” x 13”
Mixed media and acrylic on wood panel
Pictured is one of a tryptic - see all three at the physical exhibit!
Please read story below for description.
Read or listen to:
How to Survive Genocide in Three Generations
by Rowan Hynds
Run. Run your feet raw, red Heartrate so hard heavy the next seven generations will still feel their chests heaving. If you think these roughshod roads are bad walking wait until they find you again. Did you hear me? I said wait and they will find you again I said fucking run!
No time to put your feet up best not slow down Honey there is no such thing as “Home”.
Where is your Mother, child? Where is the child you were supposed to be? You perpetual motion machine, you refrigerator prank call turned rotten lamb leg – don’t let them touch you! You’ll make them sick and if you kick something don’t look back, you wouldn’t know how to help it anyway.
Where is your child? Don’t you know you’re a Mother now? Don’t you know what a Mother is? Don’t you know what the matter is you stub-toed boxer don’t you know your feet are weapons, woman? You, but a barefoot barbarian, running even in your sleep. Broken bones a better plight than bruises on your sorry knees. Don’t you know you’ll only bleed dirt, bitch? You’re not like those other pink-skinned, skinned-knee kids. Don’t you know that you’re unworthy?
Don’t you go telling secrets on that sick fucking pastor.
I said Run.
I said Run.
All this ocean toss and turning, throws you trough to crest. All this instability and never time to rest. When you learned there was no God, is that when you built your spine into a steeple, prayed for strength, hung yourself up on the cross?
When you learned about mishiikenh with the world on the back of his shell, is that when you pulled the hardcovers over your head like a Home? Fused them to yourself and hid? Learned how to protect everything soft inside you?
Sure, you’d heard of Apathetic Atlas but what’s a map when it’s not you, but the only home you might have had that’s lost?
They’re only stories anyway.
Stories you sew in puckered pages like moccasin toes.
Stories that you string in flatstitch, colourful catches of glass light.
Bookbinder backbone woman, stories heavy though they are, don’t you know your straight-backed spine is what holds it all together?
You built this house a hundred times, a hundred times it fell – leaving only skeletal support beams – leaving only two beautiful children. What will you do when you cannot save them both? What will you do when the ceiling caves in the day before your daughter’s birth?
Can’t you hear that sickly clicking? Click, click, click. Vertebrae by vertebrae: brick, brick, brick. How are you to build a home on a breaking back? How are you to house a heartbeat with no place to hang your ribs?
“Haven’t you heard the stories?” she says, weaving hide and heartbeat to a drum. “The only thing there is to do is stand and carry on.”
When I first dive my hand into the warm spring soil of my garden, I am reminded of a calving cow - of why everyone calls the earth “Mother” - of the brief moments before and after life and death where breath is forsaken to the soft pressure of protection. On the phone that night, ninosheyenh reassures me that the earth held those missing children just the same as she holds my hand, or the purple gem potatoes I deliver to the surface. Messages make their way from a homeland I have never seen whenever I seem to need them.
I cup smoke in my hands and pray to creation. I point birds out in the backyard and teach their names to the person I have begun to build a life with. “Aandeg! Boozhoo aandeg!” I say and they repeat, setting our bodies and words to sit down together like clay bricks.
I am a Maker, always have been - nothing exceptional so far but a nice life for myself and a few paintings. These hands do it for the joy of the work - that is, the satisfaction of scraping paint and dirt from underneath my nails with my navy grandfather’s old enamel-flag clippers. I’m told he loved his garden. I never heard whether you could say the same about his wife.
The heatwave kills everything I seeded this year but the more I sing and speak to it the more the weeds start to look like medicines, navigating cracks in the patio to crop up days after complaints of an ailment. My love craves parsley tea and the next morning it is springing cheerily beneath the front steps.
Gathered around a circle of stuffed toys left for the spirits of children, at the centre sits an emptiness so void that I can make nothing of it, least of all sense. Not until Emma fills my shaking empty hand with her own. A knowing look; it’s one thing to hold space and another entirely to step into it alone.
3 endangered yellow wood poppies bloom sunnily for 2 days. These are the footprints of wind walking incredible distances. Messages make their way from my homelands if you know how to hear the language. “Boozhoo!” my lemon-petaled relatives say, swaying softly in the only shade. “I heard you speaking and I knew that I was home”.
“Boozhoo, Rowan indizhnikaaz. Anishinaabe miinwaa Irish indinawemaganag nindonjibaamin, ma’ingan nindodem.
Hello, my name is Rowan. My ancestry is Anishinaabe and Irish, my clan is wolf.”
Rowan believes that the relationship of mutual vulnerability between artist and audience lends an incredible capacity to foster solidarity. Whether in inks, acrylics, verse or melody, Rowan can be found at their most Human when engaged in some form of storytelling.