Nova Scotia

Halifax artist brings African history to light through vibrant paintings

Halifax's Boma Nnaji is sharing African history and culture in Nova Scotia through his paintings. 

Boma Nnaji painted a portrait of activist Eddie Carvery on Saturday

Halifax painter celebrates African Heritage Month through his art

9 months ago
Duration 1:25
Featured VideoBoma Nnaji invited people to watch him create a new painting — a portrait of Eddie Carvery. He said Carvery, an activist who fought for decades to protect Africville, is a role model.

Halifax's Boma Nnaji is using his art to illustrate stories of Black Nova Scotians.

At the Halifax Shopping Centre on Saturday, Nnaji spent six hours from start to finish painting a portrait of a well-known Nova Scotia activist.

It was his way of celebrating African Heritage Month. 

With vivid red, blue and green colours, he painted a portrait of Eddie Carvery — who has fought over five decades to protect Africville — as onlookers took photos and stood in awe. 

"I want them to see the brilliance and the resilience of people of African descent, and I want to also celebrate an icon from the African community here in Nova Scotia," said Nnaji. "I want to see Eddie Carvery celebrated in beautiful colours."

Onlookers walk past Boma Nnaji in the Halifax Shopping Centre as he paints a portrait of Eddie Carvery on Saturday.
Onlookers walk past Boma Nnaji at the Halifax Shopping Centre as he paints a portrait of Eddie Carvery on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Nnaji's paintings are showcased on a wall on the mall's second floor. His paintings show scenes, people and places. 

A nearly complete painting of Eddie Carvery stands in the Halifax Shopping Centre.
A nearly completed painting of Carvery stands in the shopping centre. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

He said social issues of the African community in Nova Scotia are often not discussed, and this is where art plays an important role. 

"I'm trying to use this as an opportunity to bring those things to the forefront and discuss them with my art," he said.

Nnaji said his use of colour is influenced by his cultural heritage in Lagos, Nigeria, where everything is bright and lush. He also was inspired by graffiti art from an early age. 

Boma's paintings are displayed on the wall across RBC on the second floor of the Halifax Shopping Centre.
Nnaji's paintings are displayed on the second floor. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)
A vivid painting of a Fulani milk maid.
A painting of a Fulani milk maid. Fulani are a West African ethnic group. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)
A palete with vibrant paint colours.
Nnaji mixes paint on his palette (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

He said the colours in his paintings help illustrate the beauty of humanity.

His friend, Duntan Salvador, who is also originally from Lagos, came to show her support. 

"I saw a piece that he did of a place back in Lagos, and it instantly just took me back there," said Salvador. 

"People need to realize that being a Black person here doing what he's doing is so tough. So he needs more recognition."

A vibrant painting of a woman.
Lady Badu is Nnaji's largest art piece in the shopping centre. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here

Five fists raise, each with different coloured skin, with the words "Being Black in Canada" next to them with a colourful border