listen to an interview with professor Charmaine Nelson who offers some critical perspectives on the ways that exploring art history in Canada points to a profound relationship between Canadian history and slavery. this interview complicates the common liberal narrative that places a great focus on the Underground Railroad, while largely ignoring the generations of slavery ownership and social / economic complicity with imperialist slavery systems that were inherently tied to the construction of the Canadian colonial project.
Charmaine specifically highlights the ways that slave portraits illustrate this history, outlining a particularly focus on a painting by painter and slave owner François Malépart de Beaucourt, who work "Portrait of a Negro Slave" is currently up at the Musée des beaux-arts in Montreal. The painting was renamed by the institutional owners, the McCord Museum in 2011 to "Painting Portrait of a Haitian woman." In this interview Nelson highlights the ways that this portrait points clearly to Canada's colonial history of slavery, while also offering a profound critique toward renaming the portrait as an attempt to whitewash Canada's relationship to slavery.
also in this interview Charmaine speaks about looking into the deep relationship between slavery and many of the founding business people and industrialists, including James McGill, who was a trader of slave produced goods and was also a slave owner.
finally this interview touches on the ways that exploring this history points to the foundational relationship between Canada and slavery within the contemporary context of the #blacklivesmatter movement that has pushed for a deep revisiting of mainstream historical narratives around the ways that slavery was essential to the development and identity of not only the US but also Canada. Charmaine links this history to the present and outlines why a continued exploration, investigation and real accountability on this issues is essential.
this interview was recorded live on Free City Radio by Stefan Christoff @spirodon & is now being uploaded for public archiving purposes, info http://freecityradio.org
Charmaine Nelson received her PhD in Art History from the University of Manchester, UK in 2001. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, critical (race) theory, Trans Atlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. Her work examines Canadian, American, European and Caribbean art and visual culture. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation and Black Canadian Studies.
Nelson has published four books including the co-edited volume (with Camille Nelson) Racism Eh?: A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada (Concord, Ontario: Captus Press, 2004), the edited volume Ebony Roots, Northern Soil: Perspectives on Blackness in Canada (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010) and two single-authored books The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007) and Representing the Black Female Subject in Western Art (New York: Routledge, 2010).
accompanying art work 'continents' by kaie kellough (http://kaie.ca) from the series "erasures diasporas" kaie writes "erasures diasporas is a series of visual imprints that explores the loss, acquisition, and migration of languages (and also dialects, créoles, pidgins, vernaculars, utterances, articulations, syllabics, vocal codes) through the african diaspora. "
info : http://kaie.ca/erasures-diasporas