Ubuntu Arts: The Youth Speak, A Retrospective 2006-2021

Banner Photo: Ubuntu Arts Youth Participants, 2010

Collaborative Youth Art-Making and Exhibition in the Spirit of Ubuntu

"Beyond the Mountains More Mountains," 2010
"Beyond the Mountains More Mountains," 2010

Exhibition Dates:
August 18-September 30 2021

Exhibition Curator:
Ann Tobey
Director and Lead Curator, Ubuntu Arts, Youth Justice & Advocacy Program, Boston University, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development

Click Here for Ubuntu Arts Community-Based Collaborators and Participants 2006-2021

Curator's Statement

Each year, beginning in 2006, Ubuntu Arts has organized groups of young people, college students majoring in Youth Justice & Advocacy (YJA) and adult mentors to collaborate on the conceptualization, implementation and exhibition of art-making projects that give voice to personal and social issues of concern to youth in the Boston area and beyond.

Ubuntu Arts was originally housed at Wheelock College and moved to the BU-Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University in 2018. The project was founded and led by Clinical Assistant Professor, Ann Tobey, to create opportunities for learning and growth for YJA students, local youth, adult mentors, youth serving organizations and a wide community of viewers and participants. Ubuntu Arts has partnered with Violence Transformed since 2006 to bring youth voices to exhibits at multiple venues around Boston. We are very thankful to Violence Transformed for giving us this platform for youth art-work and youth voices.

Ubuntu is a Sub-Saharan African worldview that was introduced to us during a visit to Wheelock College from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is about the interconnectedness of human relationships and can be loosely translated as “A person is a person through other persons” or “I am because you are.” The Ubuntu Arts projects create a framework and a unique process by which people can work together creatively, identify issues, imagine solutions, make art and exhibit art. In this process of learning by engaging, youth participants build relationships, competencies and skills for themselves and their communities.

Each year YJA seniors facilitated the groups and empowered youth to become full participants and valued decision makers throughout the art project. Youth collaborated at their host organizations where they worked closely with the college liaisons, adult mentors and artists. Groups considered the meaning of Ubuntu, they debated, discussed, negotiated, made decisions and chose a particular issue or message of focus for their piece, a medium and a form for their art-work.

Over the years youth have chosen to focus on Ubuntu in relation to topics encompassing a wide range of social issues and emotional experiences. The selected projects shown here represent some of the ideas of the youth and the messages that they wanted to share with viewers.

Each year the Ubuntu art-making projects served to remind us of the essential importance of our connections to one another in our community. Ubuntu Arts 2006-2021 has been proud to include projects from youth and youth groups at 74 partnering organizations.

Ubuntu Exhibitions 2006-2021

Life Worth Remembering: Images From Four Street Memorials


Ubuntu in the Works


Ubuntu Quiltmaking Project


SPAGGOT (Some People Are Gay, Get Over It)


Men Anpil Chay Pa Lou – Many Hands Make the Load Lighter: Haiti Printmaking and Quilting Project


Feel Safe


The Unknown




Mellon Meadows


Message in a Bottle


Rest In Peace


Peace in the Community


Business As Usual


With or Without


I Am Still Here


Making An Impact on the Future




Turning Hate into Love


We the People


Black Lives Matter


The Fabric of Ubuntu