Promoting Freedom in Black Expressive Culture

Friday, October 8, 2021

Congratulations to Professor Naila Keleta-Mae on winning funding from the Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence (ORF-RE ) for her five-year research project, Freedom in Black Expressive Culture.

Naila Keleta-Mae singing
Keleta-Mae is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Arts whose research and creative practice is focused on race, gender, and performance. Her ORF-RE-funded research aims to increase employment and professional advancement for students, artists and public- and private-sector organizations in Ontario engaged in the field of Black studies. Outcomes will include new artistic works by Black artists, numerous public programming events, podcasts, blogs and theatre training for young artists.

“This project offers potential academic, public sector, economic, and societal impacts,” says Keleta-Mae. “Within performance, cultural and Black studies, it will emphasize the importance of freedom to Black expressive culture and an innovative methodology that includes artists and communities in shaping the direction of the research and its outcomes.”

The program features four public sector partners: The Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum – the largest community museum in Ontario; THEMUSEUM – an experiential museum that values diverse voices and experiential learning; Wilfrid Laurier University Press – a scholarly publisher with a longstanding commitment to supporting research on social justice issues; and Young People’s Theatre – the oldest professional theatre company in the country and the largest to focus on theatre for young audiences. The three featured private sector partners are the Canadian Design Resource – Canada’s only cultural-critical design media group; Citizen Brand – brand strategy for cultural institutions; and Joel Derksen Design – consultation, design, and publication in Canada and internationally.  

“At the economic and individual level,” adds Keleta-Mae, “this project will support and elevate the work of Black artists in Ontario, providing researchers and their academic institutions with a test case on public programming engaged with ideas of blackness and of freedom.”

Read about Professor Naila Keleta-Mae's related work, Black And Free.