Zilla Jones | Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency

Zilla Jones.

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency provides professional artists with time to focus on their work in the beautiful natural setting of Riding Mountain National Park, housed in the historic Deep Bay cabin.

Follow along as we feature this years’ artists-in-residence and their exciting projects!

MAC: Tell us a little about yourself as an artist and your practice.

ZJ: I am an African-Canadian female located on Treaty 1 territory in central Winnipeg. I write fiction; novels as well as short stories and novellas. My work focuses on issues of race, colonialism, identity, belonging, family, motherhood, justice and policing, and inter-generational trauma. I often write about classical music in this context, as I have a background as an opera singer. I have won several national awards for my fiction, and I am hoping to have my first novel out in the world relatively soon.

Zilla Jones holding a number of literary magazines.

Tell us about your project—what will you be working on in the Deep Bay Cabin? 

I will be working on my second novel during my stay in the park. This book will examine the life of a mixed-race family and the conflicts and divided loyalties experienced by the characters. I hope that two weeks of (mostly) uninterrupted writing time will allow me to really dig into this draft and get a good amount of it written.

What is your relationship with the park, and what are you most looking forward to exploring?

I have been to Riding Mountain National Park with my family every summer since 2016. In 2016, we were looking for a place to vacation in Manitoba and friends suggested Riding Mountain. I could not believe such a place existed in this province – it was so different from anywhere I had been. The air was so fresh and the lake and the trees created such a restful, slightly mysterious atmosphere, and when the stars came out, they were especially bright. We have returned every summer since then, and Riding Mountain has become an integral part of our summer. I love how you can enjoy aspects of both urban and natural living: you can enjoy a gourmet meal and see a movie in Wasagaming, or you can get out into nature on the hiking and biking trails.

How do you hope the park will influence or inspire your project?

I hope that the park will influence both my project and my practice by nourishing all parts of me. It will allow me to take care of my mental, physical, and spiritual health in a beautiful setting that offers lots of opportunity for recreation and relaxation. I recently took a course that suggested the artistic practice of sitting in nature for 20-30 minutes a day and observing what you see, then writing, and I am looking forward to trying this. I have an idea how some scenes that take place in the park might make it into the novel!

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency is offered in partnership by the Manitoba Arts Council and Riding Mountain National Park.

Interested in the staying in the Deep Bay cabin? Find out how to apply to the Riding Mountain Artists Residency through the Learn – Residencies grant stream. Apply by November 1, 2022 for a residency in the summer of 2023.