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Yarmouth’s African Nova Scotian community shines in AGNS exhibit


Exhibit launches at AGNS Yarmouth on Feb. 10

YARMOUTH - An art exhibit celebrating the history and contributions of Yarmouth’s African Nova Scotian community opens Feb. 10, at 2 p.m., in the community room at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – Western Branch, in Yarmouth.

The show ties in with Black History Month and will run until March 25.

Reminiscences: A Retrospective on Yarmouth’s African Nova Scotian Community was created by artist Tootsie Emin, in consultation with Black Loyalist descendants Sharon Robart-Johnson, author of Africa’s Children: A History Of Blacks In Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; community volunteer Charles (Chuck) Smith and pharmacist Bruce Johnson.  

Emin says she worked on the exhibit because of her memories of living for 55 years in Yarmouth South. She and her husband operated Fred Emin’s Grocery Ltd. in a busy area of the town back then. Many of the residents were African Nova Scotians.

“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have what I have today,” she said.

“For me it was my chance to portray all of their achievements on canvas and tell the story of their accomplishments. I think that’s important for people to know.”

The exhibit features oil and mixed media, paintings and photographs, and provides a journey through time.  There are many individuals who are recorded as being the first African in their occupation in Yarmouth and in the province.

Portrait of the late William Clayton Lawrence (Billy Lawrence), veteran of the Second World War and member of Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 61, Yarmouth.
Portrait of the late William Clayton Lawrence (Billy Lawrence), veteran of the Second World War and member of Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 61, Yarmouth.

A display of African Nova Scotians who served in the First and Second World Wars is part of the exhibit.

A section from the large number of Yarmouth’s African Nova Scotian residents who served in the Second World War.
A section from the large number of Yarmouth’s African Nova Scotian residents who served in the Second World War.

Chuck Smith and Bruce Johnson visited the work in progress at Emin’s gallery recently. Their excitement and pleasure at what they saw was palpable.

“It just gives you cold chills,” said Chuck Smith of the display.

“Tootsie is a driving force. There’s a lot of history and it needs to be told and this is a good way to tell it - in an art form,” he said.

Johnson commented on the vast number of featured African Americans.

“There’s quite a few for a small community,” he said.

“We have a story to tell for all of them.“

A work in progress of the Mission-aires. The band began in 1955 and had a large following for decades.
A work in progress of the Mission-aires. The band began in 1955 and had a large following for decades.

He added that a project of this dimension is a first.

“I don’t know of anybody else in Nova Scotia that decided to take on such a challenge.”

If you go

Light refreshments will be served at launch of show on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. at the AGNS Yarmouth Branch.

For more information, call 902-749-2248 or email

 

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