Winsom Winsom talks mentorship and art

Winsom Winsom talks mentorship and art

Image supplied by: Supplied by Winsom Winsom
Winsom's work calls on spirituality and belonging.

Having lived in Kingston for years, Winsom Winsom’s been on the Kingston Racial Harmony board and has been involved with the International Centre at Queen’s to foster equity and inclusion within the city and student community. 

Her work as an artist takes the shape of various mediums. Be it through paint, sculpture, video, or puppeteering, Winsom uses creation to tell her stories to help others see themselves represented. 

Last semester, Winsom’s The Masks We Wear was one of the last works exhibited at the Agnes before the reimagination project began. Winsom also was recently a guest in With Opened Mouths, the podcast hosted by Qanita Lilly, associate curator of arts of Africa at Queen’s. 

The Journal had the chance to sit with Winsom to talk about her work showcased at the Agnes and about how spreading the message of mentorship benefits all. 

“When I was even four years old, there were two things I was sure of: I was meant to work with art and people,” Winsom told The Journal.

“It’s important for young people to see an older person helping others and passing on the knowledge they’ve gained through experience.” 

The Masks We Wear at the Agnes was a physical manifestation of Winsom’s life as a woman of colour and how she’s observed the way those around her approach existence. 

“Everyone wears masks, to an extent, though especially people of colour. The person you see in the office puts on one face to be in the office, another to be with their children, and one face to be with their partners.” 

By calling out this process of masking, Winsom hopes to encourage people of colour to take a stand and remain dignified in being the minority within predominately white spaces. 

“I’ve come to realize that we need to make it known that we are here, we are here to stay, and we can learn from each other,” Winsom said. 

It’s especially important to Winsom to amplify this message in Kingston, where the racist past is ever present.

“Kingston was one of the headquarters [the Klu Klux Klan] would use—the Cataraqui  Mall was empty land, and they would meet there.”

“When I was on the Racial Harmony Board in Kingston, I had to be a certain way and a lot of it had to do with racism.” 

Many of the artists Winsom has mentored have become lifelong friends. She approaches mentorship holistically, never bound to giving artistic advice, but rather acting as a source of light when life gets difficult. 

“Art mentorship is usually dealing with art and teaching [mentees], helping them get navigate studies […] but if you’re a true mentor in every aspect, helping them overcome obstacles then you’re always there for them and truthful with them.”

In 1992, Winsom was a part of a collective called Fresh Arts where she and her peers worked with the government to create a program for the Black youth in Toronto to receive mentorship from artists ranging from dance to music to visual arts. Winsom is also the first Canadian Black artist to have been shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

She talked about all of this and more in With Opened Mouths alongside her mentee and artist, Pamila Matharu.

“One of the things people don’t realize is when I’d work with young people, I would use art and spirituality to work with them […] listening to ourselves, knowing, figuring out how to treat ourselves and others,” Winsom said. 

To learn more of Winsom’s practice, check out the Agnes’ page on her work or the recent episode of Dr. Lilla’s podcast.


art. africa, race, Visual art

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