and art celebrates Nova Scotia’s African-Canadian families
remember that sweet grass/that grew in the yard/right next to Grandaddy’s shed/and I remember runnin’ barefoot through summer/laughin’/and playin’ tag and hide & go seek/’til the sun got tired and went to sleep.”
A family walks, runs through tall summer grass, waist high flowers sway in the breeze, an oversized lady bug poised to take flight from a blossom.
Other words and pictures celebrate everyday moments of grace such as a kitchen sing-a-long, a mom in the backseat of the family adjusting little sister’s pigtails while big sister rides up front with dad, kids lay on the grass savouring sweet rainbow coloured Mr. Freezes.
The words by Shauntay Grant and the pictures by Susan Tooke unite in the children’s book, Up Home, distributed by Nimbus Press.
An exhibition of Tooke’s original art for Grant’s book of memories of growing up in North Preston (aptedly described by a speaker as “Canada’s largest and most important African-Canadian communities”) opened this week at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design on Charlotte Street in Sydney.
The exhibit, circulated by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, arrives in time to celebrate African Heritage Month.
Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Mayann E. Francis, who grew up in Whitney Pier’s African-Canadian community, perfectly described Grant’s story in her opening remarks as “familiar and unique”.
By showing one family at one time celebrating their own traditions, the Lt.-Gov. said we can see “our own families in the portrait” and gain “a deeper appreciation of the commonalities that link all cultures.”
Grant is a writer, spoken word performer, musician, and broadcast journalist (she hosts All The Best on CBC Radio One). Up Home, since its release in 2008, received two Atlantic Book Awards for best Atlantic published book and the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for excellence in illustration.
Susan Tooke grew up in New Jersey, moved to Canada in 1980, lives in Halifax where, since 2000, she has illustrated many awardwinning children’s books.
She spent two days before the exhibit opening at Whitney Pier’s Harbourside Elementary School, conducting art workshops with the students. Their work is also a part of the Up Home exhibit.
Chris, a Harbourside student, wrote this about his painting of a horse on a field of green: “me and my grandfather feeding the chickens. The horse her name was Bailey. My grandfather loved his horse.”
History moves on; family abides.