BU professor contributes to Manitoba Book Awards finalist

May 8, 2020

A book featuring an essay by Brandon University professor Cathy Mattes has been shortlisted for three Manitoba Book Awards.

Cover of Perception features a closeup photo of a woman's face

Perception, by KC Adams, is on the shortlist for three Manitoba Book Awards, including McNally Robinson Book of the Year.

The book, titled Perception: A Photo Series, is based on an award-winning art project by KC Adams. Adams, who is a former instructor in BU’s Department of Visual and Aboriginal Art, took two portraits each of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. The first photograph captures the model’s image when asked to think about the racist remarks that they or their families have experienced. In the second photo they were asked to think about their family or happy moments, and to describe their own accomplishments and positive traits.

For the book, Mattes was asked to contribute a critical essay, discussing Adams’ work as socially engaged art.

“The Perception series has been successful in demanding that viewers look again at Indigenous peoples, and challenge whatever stereotypes they have of us,” said Mattes, who is an Association Professor in BU’s Department of Visual and Aboriginal Art as well as the Gender and Women’s Studies program.

“The art series has been well-received because of the approachable ways that KC exposes how stereotypes cloud the way we see, and value, one another.”

Published by HighWater Press, Perception also includes a foreword by Governor General’s Award-winning poet Katherena Vermette. It is one of five books on the shortlist for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book. It is one of six books in the running for McNally Robinson Book of the Year.

The winners will be named on Friday, May 15.

Mattes believes that the success of Perception: A Photo Series is helping to expand the reach of Adams’ work, noting that Reuben Boulette has created a teacher’s guide for the book to help educators teach their students racist stereotypes and remedying their impact.

“As the Perception series was previously only available on KC’s website, this book should help widen her audience and provide additional resources to general readers and educators alike,” Mattes said. “I am so appreciative that I was asked to write the critical essay, and to be a part of the Perception series as a writer.”