Quilt exhibit tells stories of African Nova Scotian family

A new exhibit at the Dalhousie Art Gallery is displaying how one family kept warm during the winter for decades in North Preston, N.S.

'My grandmother is not just a quilter but a storyteller,' curator Shauntay Grant says

Shauntay Grant is curating the exhibit, she said it was a way for her pay tribute to the inspiring woman in her life. (CBC)

A new exhibit at the Dalhousie Art Gallery is displaying how one family kept warm during the winter for decades in North Preston, N.S.

Stitched Stories: the Family Quilts is curated by Shauntay Grant, a storyteller and creative writing professor at Dalhousie University.

Grant's great-grandmother used to make quilts with old clothing and fabrics.

"The winter was very harsh. People lived in homes that were not properly insulated," she said.

"A lot of cold was seeping in, so these quilts were best defence to the harsh climate."

The quilts on display tell stories of old black Nova Scotia communities. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)

The exhibit is a way for Grant to pay tribute to the woman that inspired her to tell stories and creatively write.

"Incorporating the sense of story into her quilting craft I think is very special, especially for me as a storyteller," Grant said. "What I take from these quilts are the stories and I tell them through words."

Shauntay Grant's grandmother Alfreda Smith, left, and great-grandmother Annie Simmonds-Cain, right. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)

The quilts are made by Grant's late great-grandmother Annie Simmonds-Cain and grandmother Alfreda Smith.

"The time that these quilts came out of was very poor, I mean, we're talking 70 years ago in a rural isolated black Nova Scotian community," Grant said.

Shauntay Grant's family members made the quilts, which will be passed on through her family. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)

"My grandmother is not just a quilter but a storyteller."

A quilt by Grant's grandmother incorporates patterned fabrics of the underground railroad, the north star, boats and bear tracks, all of which tell the story of freedom.

Grant discovered new inspiration for storytelling from the quilts, which will continue to be passed down from generation to generation as a piece of family history.

This quilt survived a house fire. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)