Nadine Williams art tells the story of Blacks contributions to Canada

By Lincoln DePradine

Nadine Williams

Jamaican-Canadian has been using her artistic talents to preserve and relate the stories of Black men and women, and their contributions to Canada.

Williams, who owns and operates Nadine Williams Pen Foundation, is a multi-award-winning poet. She’s also an arts educator and author, who has published three collections of poetry, two children’s books and more than 15 volumes of literature for Black History Month.

One of her ongoing projects is titled, “The Fabric Of Our Being’’. It’s described as “an inspiring textile series fusing art and poetry, which depicts multiple Black Canadian experiences’’.

The handcrafted quilts, which comprise “The Fabric Of Our Being’’, have been mounted at Toronto and Edmonton schools, depicting prominent African-Canadians such as Willie O’Ree; Dr Jean Augustine; Louise Bennett-Coverley, better known as “Miss Lou’’; Violet King; and Dr Douglas Salmon.

In addition, Williams has been persistently engaging Parks Canada’s Historical Sites and Monuments Board. Through her efforts, the board has bestowed historical designation on people, places and events in Black Canadian history.

The latest is “Emancipation Day Celebrations” that now is designated as a historically significant Canadian event. “I’m very excited about that,’’ Williams told The Caribbean Camera.

Among her previous designations is that of the late George Dixon, whose statue was unveiled in June in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Williams attended the unveiling ceremony of Dixon’s commemorative bronze plaque at Halifax’s Africville Museum.

Dixon, born 1870 in Halifax, was a world boxing title-holder, who was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955

One of Williams’s “Fabric Of Our Being’’ quilts is showcased at Union Station in Toronto.

On Tuesday, which was observed as Emancipation Day, Williams announced that Hydro One was partnering with her and her company on “The Fabric Of Our Being’’ project.

Nadine Williams

The partnership was made possible through BERC – the Black Employee Resource Circle of Hydro One, Williams disclosed.

 “The partnership with Hydro One will create five new installations which bring awareness to the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent,’’ Williams said.

“Hydro One is sponsoring five quilts which would go to schools in the fall. By conveying historical records via artistic expression, we are affirming Black Canadian identity in a profound and generational way,’’ she added. “We are also contributing to a larger global conversation about people of African descent, of which Black Canadians have played an integral role since before Confederation. Let’s make this available to the world!”  

Farah Alexis, a vice president at Hydro One, said the company is “extremely proud to help support and recognize this incredible initiative from the Nadine Williams Pen Foundation that puts a spotlight on Black Canadian history. We believe a better and brighter future hinges on inspiring the next generation, and this expansive project is doing just that’’. 

Williams, who was named last year among the “100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women’’, would like to see many more quilts on public display.

“I am working to get more installations, in the public places, that reflect people of African descent and our contributions,’’ said Williams, whose work has been exhibited in several places including the Canadian Museum of History, Bank of Canada Museum and the Art Gallery of Mississauga.

“This is meant to be a call out to get more people on board. I wish to get to a thousand installations. So far, I’ve only reached about 10 percent of my goal.’’