EMMA Talks with Maneo Mohale and Sarah Hunt

EMMA Talks held their fourth event in partnership with SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement!

On April 27th, EMMA Talks brought two inspiring women identified speakers to the stage at SFU. Maneo Mohale and Sarah Hunt spoke to a full house in the World Art Centre on their personal lived experiences as queer women and activists in their communities.

The event was hosted once again by EMMA Talks’ fabulous MC Tahia Ahmed, who provided insightful reflections on the Talks. Sign language interpreters Melanie Valencia, Linda Ko and Sara MacFayden, from Douglas College, provided ASL interpretation for the evening.

EMMA Talks is interested in the ways intentionally curated community based art can transform conventional audience/speaker dynamics by enabling different kinds of engagement. Artists from various disciplines are invited to the EMMA Talks events to infuse the evenings with creative collaboration. This EMMA Talks included a participatory art project with Tin Can Studio called “Common Threads.”

The socially engaged work used the metaphor of thread to explore the notion of ‘connection’ in the context of a community. The phrase “we are all in this together” was outlined with nails on a wooden board, and attendees were invited to weave thread through, around, and in between the letters.

An adjacent board asked the question, “what is the thread that connects us all?” Participants were provided with post-it notes to respond and contribute to the conversation. Love, food, curiosity, pals, trust, and vulnerability are just a few of the answers that made their way to the display throughout the night.

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photos by EMMA Talks event photographer Vivienne McMaster

The first speaker of the evening, Maneo Refiloe Mohale is a queer, Black feminist writer, performer and community organiser, born, raised and currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She recently graduated with a BA in History and International Relations from the University of British Columbia (located on the unceded, occupied and ancestral territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people).

While at UBC, Mohale was involved in various organisations, movements and student groups. She was a member of the founding Editorial Collective of The Talon – an online student journalism platform that continues to centre the voices of marginalised students on campus. She was Local Advocacy Director of AfricaCanada.org – a group that seeks to promote ethical human rights advocacy in cheeky and innovative ways, such as their flagship workshop entitled “So You Want to ‘Save’ Africa?.”

Mohale’s work has appeared in various print and online publications, including Jalada, HOLAA!, The Beautiful Project, From the Root Zine, The Mail & Guardian, and Expound Magazine. She is the 2016 Bitch Media Global Feminism Writing Fellow.

In Mohale’s talk, The Scrutiny of Now, she explored what it means to be black in South Africa, black and queer, and even took a moment to discuss her own privilege within some of the related social movements.

“Being given the opportunity to present an EMMA Talks was one of the most fulfilling and positive experiences I’ve ever had. Everything from the format of the talk, to the focus on community and mutual aid, to the fun and nurturing environment — empowered me to connect to my own story, as well as the power of providing platforms for voices in margins to speak and be heard.”

– Maneo Mohale

The second speaker, Sarah Hunt, is a writer, activist and educator who is passionate about working collaboratively to address issues related to justice, decolonization, gender and sexuality. Hunt’s writing has been published in numerous scholarly books and journals, blog, and news media.

In 2014, Hunt was awarded a Governor General’s Gold Medal for her doctoral research which investigated the relationship between law and violence in ongoing neocolonial relations in BC, asking how violence gains visibility through Indigenous and Canadian socio-legal discourse and action.

Hunt’s academic research builds on her 15 years of work as a community-based researcher & educator in both rural and urban Indigenous communities, with a particular focus on issues facing girls, women and Two-Spirit people. At its heart, Sarah’s work is concerned with countering various forms of colonial violence with radical accountability, responsibility and relationality.

Hunt is Kwakwaka’wakw, from the Kwagiulth community in Tsaxis (also called Fort Rupert) and is also of Ukrainian and English ancestry. She is assistant professor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and the Department of Geography at UBC, working and living as a guest in unceded Musqueam territories.


EMMA stands for Engaging Monologues Mutual Aid. This means that the donations received at the door are split in half — 50 per cent goes to the speaker’s choice of cause/project/individuals and 50 per cent goes to paying all the tech and support staff, and speakers are paid by partnering institutions and grants.

A total of $450 was raised for the causes selected by the speakers, (thank you everyone who donated!). Hunt’s portion of the donations went to Sex Workers United Against Violence and Mohale’s to the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter.

A video recording of Hunt’s talk is to come, and both talks will soon have closed captioning.

The next two EMMA Talks are in the works — one for Fall 2016 and one for Winter 2017. Details are coming soon!