This year, the U of Mosaic Fellowship made it their main mission to create an interactive art exhibit in UTM’s CCT atrium. The exhibit, entitled Don’t Pass It Down, Dismantling our Intergenerational Prejudices, is mindful to expressive discussions and encourages students to let it all out.
The Mosaic Institute is a Canadian charity that strives to bring people of different backgrounds and nations together, and cultivates peace and understanding between societies. Their fellowship program, which has organized the exhibit, is in charge of bringing youth together in an initiative that supports students who are passionate about diversity on Canadian campuses.
Don’t Pass It Down aims to help students at UTM uncover the intergenerational prejudices they have faced in their lives, whether as young children or adults. The term “intergenerational prejudices” refers to prejudices that are passed on through older family members, such as parents and grandparents. They are not fact based and are often preconceived.
The symbol that the U of Mosaic chose to represent their project is the Matryoshka Doll. The middle of the exhibit, there is a board covered in little paper cut outs of the Matryoshka dolls. They all inhabit different messages that UTM students have written on them. Presumably, the messages are quotes from the intergenerational prejudices that they have faced all their lives. One says, “You’re speaking too loud for a girl.” Another says, “Studying the sciences is more important than studying the arts.” And another: “Don’t eat too fast. It’s not lady-like.”
When I inquire about all of these cut outs of the dolls, I turn to a staff member of the organization, Kayvan Aflaki. He mans the table and answers questions about the exhibit for anyone who comes along. When asked about the doll symbol, he claims that, “a lot like these dolls, it’s also said that we carry a number of layers to us as well. The culminations of different experiences we’ve had in life are a number of different prejudices and biases that we may have. We may not always recognize or realize that we have those biases but they’re kind of always there.”
I get a clearer understanding of the doll symbol now, and begin to read over the dolls and their messages. What I realize has generated all of these diverse answers is the question right in the middle of the board: “What is an intergenerational prejudice that you have received?”
Aflaki agrees that each doll represents something that differs from the other. “Some of them touch on success and GPA’s and academics. Some are more on the basis of sex and gender, and others have more of a religious undertone and talk about things like atheism.”
The exhibit had a good understanding of how to bring the UTM community together to realize the prejudices they have faced through their family members. While they have come to acknowledge them here, it’s interesting to see why they have engaged with it. Perhaps some have kept these secrets inside, while others are advocating to stop the ideas their families have planted in their heads.