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College of Extended Learning

The Secret Codes: Contemporary African Nova Scotian Narrative and Picture Quilts

Jan. 31 to Feb. 28, 2014

The UNB Art Centre celebrates Black History Month with a special exhibition and program highlighting the creative and historical presence of black Canadians in the Maritimes.

The Secret Codes: Contemporary African Nova Scotian Narrative and Picture Quilts organized by the Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia will open Jan. 31 at 5 p.m. on the eve of Black History Month. This exhibit features 25 quilts by members of the Vale Quiltmakers Association from the New Glasgow area of Nova Scotia. The quiltmakers explored this medium as a vehicle for storytelling, using the drawings of artist, writer and curator David Woods, as well as their own designs to create a series of quilts that capture community history. “The Secret Codes” refers to the use of quilts as a subversive medium to guide escaping slaves to the Underground Railroad.

A selection of these quilts was shown at the prestigious 2012 Quilt Canada Conference, held at Dalhousie University in Halifax. It marked the first time that an exhibition by African Canadian quiltmakers was featured at this conference. Conference delegates from the Fredericton Quiltmakers Guild praised the quality of the quilts, their originality and their thematic content, and requested that the UNB Art Centre bring these works to Fredericton.

The exhibit will also include the New Brunswick Connection, a look at the Kings Landing Historical Settlement’s Leek-Taylor Collection, acquired in 2007. This collection of artifacts which belonged to the family of George Leek, the illegitimate son of Isaac Allen and one of his female slaves, gives a tiny glimpse into the lives of early black settlers in New Brunswick. Isaac Allen was one of the four Chief Justices to hear the trial of slave Nancy Morton. This infamous trial is said to have affected Allen so much that it caused him to free his slaves upon returning home.

In addition, the exhibit will also include two reproductions of paintings by the New Brunswick born black artist, Edward Mitchell Bannister. Born in St. Andrews, NB, Bannister worked in New England and studied under William Rimmer at the Lowell Institute. He won the first prize bronze medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition for a painting entitled Under the Oaks. This award caused a stir when the jury discovered they had awarded the prize to a black painter, at a time when black members of the public were turned away from the doors of venerable art institutions. His work can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the New Brunswick Museum, as well as the National Museum of American Art in Washington. Bannister, whose work derives from the pastoral themes of the Barbizon School of painting, has been only recently rediscovered after almost a century of obscurity.

For more information

Marie Maltais, Director
(506) 453-4623
ARTCNTR@unb.ca
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