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Shaunavon hosts world premiere photo exhibition exploring cultural intelligence

Posted on 13 October 2021 by Prairie Post

A photographic exhibition currently on show in Shaunavon takes visitors on a visual tour around the world to learn more about cultural intelligence (CQ) and offers information that will benefit their own cross-cultural interactions.

The world premiere launch of the exhibition Exploring CQ: A Journey through the 10 Cultural Clusters by cultural intelligence facilitator Wilbur Sargunaraj opened on Oct. 1 and will be on display at the Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre Gallery until Oct. 29.

The exhibition is the showcase event for Shaunavon’s Cultural Days 2021 celebration. There will be an opportunity to meet and hear from the artist on Oct. 22. This special event will include a multicultural potluck, a meet and greet with the artist at 4 p.m., and a musical and keynote presentation by the artist at 6 p.m. followed by a walk-through of the exhibition.

Sargunaraj is thrilled to have the opportunity to share his passion for learning about different cultures with people through this exhibition.

“It’s going to be really exciting, because not only do people get to see these photographs, but they get to really delve into what cultural intelligence is,” he said.

The exhibition features a series of photographs taken over the last decade on his journeys across the 10 cultural clusters to work and partner with various communities and organizations.

“While I’m travelling, my deepest passion is always about documenting stories of the marginalized, overlooked, struggling people or simple superstars from around the world, the people who don’t have a global platform, but who have rich and meaningful stories to share,” he said. “These relationships and the friendships that were formed with all these cross-cultural interactions were the inspiration behind this exhibit.”

The photographs and accompanying text will help people to increase their CQ by learning about the 10 cultural clusters and 10 cultural values. His hope is that the exhibition will assist people to have a better understanding of various cultures and that they will be motivated to build bridges across cultural differences.

“I felt this would be such a wonderful way, because CQ is such a wonderful thing,” he said. “It sounds complicated, but it’s very easy to grasp. It addresses issues of race, cultural sensitivity, bias, cross-cultural communication. It’s a capability that anyone can develop and use towards building those bridges.”

Cultural intelligence or CQ refers to a person’s ability to function effectively with people from different cultures.

“It’s just how do you work effectively with a person from a different culture,” he said. “I think in this day and age we really need that, to help people show us how do we build those bridges and CQ is a wonderful way of doing that.”

The first section of the exhibition includes an explanation of the four CQ capabilities and what someone can do to increase these capabilities.

“Maybe when I’m engaging with someone from a different culture I have to watch more, I have to listen more, maybe speak less, and refrain from judging, but reflecting and asking I wonder why that is,” he said.

The exhibition includes an attention-grabbing photograph related to food that will help exhibition visitors to evaluate their own CQ based on their response to this image.

“It’s relating to food, because food is one of those things that people maybe find difficult when they’re going through a different culture,” he said.

A series of photographs highlights the 10 cultural clusters, which are distinct groupings of nations that have a predominant religion, many shared beliefs, and similar cultural values. The next group of photographs explains the 10 cultural values, which are the beliefs, attitudes and personal preferences considered important to people within a culture or community. It is important to understand these values to increase CQ knowledge, but one should be careful not to let these values become a stereotype.

“So understanding these values will help people stop judging and they would say this is why they do that, and then they can start questioning themselves as well,” he said.

There is a self-reflective area towards the end of the exhibition with photographs to help people ponder what they have learned about CQ.

“We have a collage of different pictures from around the world that I’m really hoping invoke people to say would I consider that person my friend and then just really encouraging people to move away from tolerant to transformation,” he said. “Tolerance is I have to tolerate you, but a transformation of the heart is really working towards entering into that person’s world and getting to know them and really engaging with them so that you work towards becoming their friend and doing away with the us versus them mentality.”

The final part of the exhibition also highlights CQ myths, for example it is a myth that you have to travel abroad to develop your cultural intelligence. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to continue their CQ learning afterwards by providing small paper globes that they can take home with them.

“On the paper globes people can basically reflect on the exhibition and then write who they think their other is and what they’re going to do to build bridges this year and in the near future,” he said. “They can take it home with them, put it on their fridge. I think that’s really good, because I just don’t want them to see the pictures and walk away. I want them to really go through them, understand what CQ is and at the very end say who is my other, then write that down on a paper, put that on your fridge, and then really start working towards building bridges.”

Sargunaraj’s own passion for connecting with people and building bridges are related to his life experience. He was born in Alberta, grew up in rural South India, and returned to Canada as a teenager. His parents moved around and he was constantly challenged to develop new friendships in various cross-cultural settings. As an artist he now splits his time between Saskatchewan and Tamil Nadu in India. He considers himself to be a global citizen and a third culture individual.

“I’m what they call a third culture kid, where it’s like home is in India and then home is also here in Canada as well,” he said. “I feel comfortable speaking in Tamil, my mother tongue, and I feel comfortable speaking in English. I think that’s the thing that really pushed me to cultural intelligence. It’s just even my own identity is really complex.”

He uses music, storytelling, filmmaking and photography to share his message. He is a certified CQ facilitator and he is the director of CQ World Wide Consulting, which offers cultural intelligence events, keynotes and workshops for businesses, foundations and academic institutions.

This is his debut photographic exhibition and he plans to take this exhibition to other countries, depending on the pandemic situation. The exhibition is also available for shows in Canada.

For more information about the exhibition, visit his website at http://www.wilbur.asia or go to the Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre website at http://www.shaunavon.com/gchcc/

Cultural intelligence facilitator Wilbur Sargunaraj is sharing his images from a decade of travel in the current exhibition at the Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre Gallery in Shaunavon.

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