When there is an opportunity to acknowledge art and design that exceptionally conveys creative and enthusiastic social visions of Black life, livingness and culture, the Black Studies Program Group is filled with joy. In this case, we are thrilled to share the new visual identity for the Black Studies Program developed by Mam'gobozi Design Factory, a South African-based design studio co-founded by the award-winning designers Nontokozo Tshabalala and Osmond Tshuma.
Over the past year, we have had the privilege of collaborating with Nontokozo, Osmond and Alyssa Vernon (Queen’s, EDU, 2022), who was selected from a diverse pool of candidates to work alongside Mam'gobozi in a Black Studies work experience program.
In our meetings and conversations, we had rich and stimulating discussions about how the graphic element might communicate the achievements and aspirations of a Black Studies Program that explores the complexities of Black communities across time and space. We also expressed our hopes that the visual identity might avoid the pitfalls of representations that confine and define the wealth of Black humanity to a limited range of colours, histories and geographies.
We wondered if the graphic element might capture the spirit of contemporary social movements as well as creative artists and soul rebels in the 1960s and 70s who were able to “funkify” things by articulating the struggles of Black communities and adding to their power. We wondered, for example, if our visual identity might convey the subtlety and soulful flair of Marvin Gaye’s music and album cover, which was a source of inspiration for Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters imprisoned in Robben Island and, over fifty years after its original release, continues to stimulate transnational and cross-generational connections.
We have ended up with a graphic element that surpasses our greatest expectations, and can be displayed in brown/orange/pink, brown/orange/green as well as in black and white.
We cannot wait to share the graphic element in upcoming projects and initiatives that bring scholars, activists and artists together to discuss creative and collaborative knowledge making. Immediately on the horizon, we are excited to launch the Black Studies Podcast on September 15, which will explore the connections between the arts, social justice and decolonial thought with global thought leaders.
We are also looking forward to displaying the graphic element during our official launch events at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on October 21-22. In these inauguration events, we will screen the short film, “Black Studies is…”, launch new books that examine the aspirations and achievements of Black people in local, national and transnational contexts, and be joined by Lillian Allen, Stephanie Simpson, Beverley Mullings, Kristin Moriah, Rachel Goffe, Debra Thompson, and many more activists, artists and intellectuals to help us think about the past, present and future of Black Studies at Queen’s!
Thank you Nontokozo, Osmond and Alyssa for communicating so beautifully how Black Studies can step audaciously into the past and imagine and build more promising and fantastic futures!