Nova Scotia

New institute for examining slavery in Canada to be set up at NSCAD University

Charmaine Nelson, the Canada Research Chair in transatlantic Black diasporic art, will help set it up

Posted: June 22, 2020

Charmaine Nelson, an art historian and professor, is the new Canada Research Chair in transatlantic Black diasporic art and community engagement. (Charles Michael)

NSCAD University plans to set up an institute for studying Canadian slavery.

Art historian Charmaine Nelson, who was recently named the Canada Research Chair in transatlantic Black diasporic art and community engagement, will help set up the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at the university's Fountain Campus in downtown Halifax.

"Transatlantic slavery was [happening for] 400 years and during that period, people were producing both pro-slavery and anti-slavery art," Nelson told CBC's Information Morning on Monday.

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"So as artists, we come at it through that lens of examining the art and visual culture that was produced within the context of transatlantic slavery."

Nelson previously taught art history at McGill University in Montreal.

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CBC News Network's Andrew Nichols speaks with Charmaine Nelson, professor of art history at McGill University.  10:14

She said slavery in Canada spanned from Ontario to the East Coast, affected both Black people and First Nations people and lasted about 200 years.

"Canadian slavery was extensive if we're talking about two centuries ... so there's a lot to do," she said.

Nelson said the school is the perfect place to accommodate traditional and visual research.

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"NSCAD will be able to support, for instance, the painter whose content deals with transatlantic slavery, a person who is working on digital art, or the person who wants to recuperate and experiment with the nature of the clothing or the dress that enslaved people wore," she said.

The institute will allow artists to combine traditional research with their art style, like painting, sculpting, clothing or recording oral history.

Nelson said construction of the institute will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will begin as soon as possible.

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