Black Saskatchewan performance project showcases prairie history OCN News

An arts project celebrating Black people living in rural Saskatchewan arrived in Regina today.

Artist Shayna Jones, one of the performers responsible for creating the project, grew up in a rural home in British Columbia.

“I found myself curious about the lives and experiences of other black people that others like me chose to hide outside of urban settings,” Jones said. “That started this national survey project.”

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Jones conducted a series of interviews to understand the “black and rural” experience of Saskatchewan.

She spoke with people from different backgrounds, including descendants of early African-Canadian settlers in Saskatchewan, who shared the stories passed down from their families.

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“They faced the intensity of the task of settling on this land,” Jones explained. “They faced the dazzling sun and mountains of snow. They faced triumph and tragedy as they began their lives here in Saskatchewan. Yet, at the same time, they had to bear the burden of being the black people doing this work.

And yet, the stories received from the descendants are stories of their strength, kindness, love and generosity in the face of racial tensions encountered in Saskatchewan.

In early 2021, Heritage Saskatchewan contacted Jones to collaborate on the project and focus on Saskatchewan. For the past year, she has been listening to the stories of black people and urban black people.

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Knowing stories from across Saskatchewan, Jones created a performance titled “Black and Rural Saskatchewan,” which she describes as “a window into an easily overlooked segment not just of prairie life, but of Black Canadian life in general. To choose to live outside the urban maze as a black individual is to live outside the narrow bandwidth offered to us by the dominant culture. The purpose of this project is to honor these hidden rural black voices and challenge the monolith of what matters to black lives.

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The final performance will take place today, June 23 at 7 p.m., at École Monseigneur de Laval Secondary Pavilion of Quatre Vents.

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