African heritage trailblazers celebrated

Andrew Wagstaff
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New exhibit to be displayed at museum during February

The Cumberland County Museum and Archives will show the exhibit

AMHERST - African Heritage Month will be celebrated in Amherst this year with the launch of a brand new exhibit by artist Darlene Strong at the Cumberland County Museum and Archives.

The 10-panel exhibit - "Trailblazers 2012 - United We Stand" is symbolic of more than 400 years of vibrant African Nova Scotian history, and will be on display at the museum for several weeks.

"It is a privilege to launch the 2012 exhibit at the museum," said Strong. "Curator Shirley Nickerson's enthusiasm helps to keep the history meaningful to both students and the general public. Support from the Town of Amherst Art and Cultural Division assists to disseminate the exhibit to a wider audience."

Created by Strong, with graphic design by Spicer Photography, the images represent the significant influence and achievements of African Canadians from all walks of life, both seen and unseen, including the church, educators, activists, politicians, administrators, architects, sports figures, artists and members of the armed forces.

Unity lies at the heart of strength, be it migration, demographic shifts, assimilation or cultural collaboration, according to Strong.

The exhibit expresses collaborations influencing the accomplishments that have helped African Canadians rise above obstacles such as slavery and systemic racism and become specialists in their fields. In commemoration of Her Majesty the Queen's 60th Anniversary, the exhibit reflects on the first African Nova Scotian and second woman to hold the post of Lieutenant Governor as the Queen's representative in Nova Scotia, Honourable Mayann Francis.

The pioneer spirit of African Nova Scotians, be it at home or abroad, is a tribute and a reminder to the trailblazers who have gone ahead or those who remain, she said.

"A healthier respect for the black community continues to emerge and the images in the exhibit capture history in a multi-generational genre suitable for school presentations, libraries, museums, cultural centres and created to stimulate dialogue and insight," said Strong.

For Nickerson, the exhibit is an important way to recognize a valuable aspect of Cumberland County's history.

"Art is such an important form of communication because it relates to all ages, young and old," she said. "Darlene's work is very expressive and really gets the point across nicely."

The Town of Amherst came on board as a sponsor because it was an opportunity to bring together not only some great artwork and important part of local heritage, but also a way to support local organizations like the museum and artists like Strong, according to Andrew MacGregor, the town's arts, culture and heritage co-ordinator.

"We have to recognize the history of the community, and also the wonderful work being done here now." Said MacGregor. "We're always interested in exploring ways to do it, and this is a great way to do it."

The exhibit will be displayed at the museum during regular business hours throughout the month of February.

Organizations: African Nova Scotians, Cumberland County Museum, Queen's Town of Amherst Art

Geographic location: AMHERST, Nova Scotia, Cumberland County

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