Filmmaker, photographer and musician Wilbur Sargunaraj provided an entertaining and energetic opening to the “Exploring CQ” exhibit, on now at the Humboldt and District Museum. The exhibit is a revealing and thought provoking look at the cultural mixes Sargunaraj has encountered in his travels with a treatise on a cultural world becoming more interconnected. 

We caught up with Wilbur Sargunaraj in a post-presentation interview. He explains the concept of cultural intelligence (CQ).

“It is basically how do we get along with people, or how do we work with people from different cultures - people who are different from us,” he explains. “The goal of this exhibition is to inspire people to build bridges across cultural differences.”

Sargunaraj’s journey with CQ began as a youth in a family that travelled extensively. He was always rubbing shoulders with people from different cultures. Stops included India, Canada, and Japan. The concept of CQ was as foreign to Wilbur as many of the cultures he’s encountered, but his travels caught the interest of the Centre for Cultural Intelligence based in Singapore. Part of their mission is to assess cultural intelligence, and they approached Sargunaraj to embark on some training and then use his travels to both observe and deliver information on CQ. 

Sargunaraj’s travels as a musician and later as a videographer led him to capture all kinds of people in their environments. His interest turned to photography as well, producing images that would capture the essence of what he was experiencing. 

“Whatever my platform was, I always wanted to make sure that I was connecting with people. For me, relationships are at the cornerstone, and that’s what this exhibition is all about. How do we inspire people to build bridges across the cultural differences? It’s been an absolutely wonderful journey putting the pieces together.”

Sargunaraj says the photographic exhibition and commentary is an extension of workshops he delivers on CQ to various groups worldwide. The collection of photographs he’d taken begged to be released as a photographic exhibition. It’s been viewed extensively and is now headed to a cultural festival in Greenland and other Saskatchewan venues such as Yorkton. The richness of the stories, told in both images and words, demands repeated viewing, and that’s why Sargunaraj is eyeing the prospect of a book. 

“We invite people to come back to the museum because you can’t do it all in one day. We go through what CQ is and the four capabilities - drive, knowledge, strategy and action. Then we go through what the 10 CQ clusters are, and then we compare different cultural values between the clusters.”

At the end, people can ask themselves how to apply the knowledge they’ve gained, in a model that is similar to Truth and Reconciliation. At the end of the day, Sargunaraj says it’s about identifying your perceived other and building bridges to better understand and get along with those who are from different cultures and those who have different life experiences. 

“We all have an unconscious bias, and that’s what this exhibition is trying to get at - to question these different cultural values, and to have an understanding of the similarities and differences. You ultimately ask the question ‘do I have an unconscious bias?’ We all do, and it’s coming to that place of humility of accepting it, and how can we then start building those bridges.”

If you haven’t experienced Exploring CQ, head to the Museum and immerse yourself in the images and guiding narrative. If you have, you are invited back, says Wilbur, to deepen the understanding. Exploring CQ is on until April 15. 

Enjoy the conversation below.