Home Dr. Charmaine Nelson to Speak on Representations of Slavery in Canadian Visual Culture

Dr. Charmaine Nelson to Speak on Representations of Slavery in Canadian Visual Culture

-Confederation Centre Art Gallery and UPEI Welcome Nelson for ArtTalk on November 15 at 2 p.m.-

The Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) is pleased to welcome, in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Prince Edward Island, guest lecturer Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson.

Nelson is Professor of Art History with Halifax’s NSCAD University and is a Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement. She serves as the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery with NSCAD.

Nelson will speak this Sunday November 15 at 2 p.m. at the CCAG. She will discuss representations of slavery in Canadian visual culture, the challenges of research in a field with an almost non-existent archive, and the direction of a new academic institution. She will also present portions of her paper Fugitive Slave Advertisements and/as Portraiture in late Eighteenth- and early Nineteenth-Century Canada.

“The arrival of Charmaine Nelson in this region is wonderful news,” says CCAG Director Kevin Rice, “and we are honoured to be able to host her talk at the gallery. We also look forward to working with her in the future, as her research is particularly timely as Canada is undergoing a critical re-examination of its history, including the presence of slavery and its racializing aftermath in what has so often been described as a beacon of equality.

Rice continues, “The echoes of these events are still with us, and foregrounding the work of scholars like Dr. Nelson is a way we can contribute to a better understanding of how we got to this point.”

Due to COVID-19 health precautions, space is limited for this event, and registration is now full. Patrons can have their name added to a waiting list by contacting Tamara Steele at [email protected].

Found throughout the Transatlantic World, fugitive slave advertisements demonstrate the frequency of African resistance to slavery. Produced by white slave owners seeking to recapture their ‘property,’ these advertisements included textual descriptions that were also fundamentally visual and comprise an archive of very dubious, unauthorized ‘portraits’ that have come to stand as “the most detailed descriptions of the bodies of enslaved African Americans available”, according to Nelson’s research.

Besides noting things like names, speech, accents, and skills, fugitive slave notices frequently recounted the dress, branding, and even the gestures and expressions of runaways. Nelson explores the juxtaposition of ‘high’ art representations of enslaved Africans with the textual descriptions of enslaved people’s bodies, and positions these visuals as one part of the colonial infrastructure that sustained the racialized distinction between free and unfree populations.

Nelson has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race, and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies and has published seven books in these areas. Her media work includes CBC, BBC One, PBS, Huffington Post Canada, and The Walrus. Most recently, she was the Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-18).


Photo cutline: In collaboration with UPEI, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery is pleased to host Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson, speaking this Sunday November 15 at the CCAG (submitted).