COLOURblind’s latest exhibit uses the momentum of established and emerging African-Canadian artists as they come together to celebrate art, history and achievement in their latest group show, Beyond the Rhythm.

Produced annually by the Association of African-Canadian Artists and running alongside Caribana, the exhibit aims to highlight the work of African-Canadian artists.

Each piece in the 25-person show at the Royal Ontario Museum was created as a response to a poem — also called Beyond the Rhythm — written by the show’s curator, Joan Butterfield.

“I make a theme, write a poem and then send it out there. It’s magical really. I’m writing the story and they’re doing the pictures, like a book,” Butterfield said.

The poem expresses “our journey as a people coming to this part of the world” and has an underlying message of pride and prosperity.

Several of the large canvas pieces depict prominent black figures, including Barack Obama, who was elected a month after the poem was published.

“(His presidency) was so new, it was so fresh, it was so a propos,” Butterfield said.

But, Obama didn’t steal the whole show. Other black icons in the exhibit include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali — as well as musicians such as Michael Jackson and Ray Charles.

Although all pieces are done on canvas, several include alternative techniques, such as collage using handwritten letters, fabric and wire giving the pieces a third dimension.

The sounds of steel drums and Soca music play as visitors walk through the gallery, contributing to the uplifting feel of the exhibit.

“I like to inspire some positive thought, there’s so much turmoil everywhere … I like to do art that will reflect soothing and positive energy,” said Asha Aditi Ruparelia whose piece, Hopeful Beginning, includes text and images that reference the path from the Underground Railroad to the Oval Office.

“I thought that would be the great way of connecting with the new dawn. And today there’s a new dawn of presidency. To get to that level the community has gone through hard times, as though they had to break through the brick wall.”