Resetting the Cedar Table

British Columbia Pagent located in the north corridor on the 3000 level of the AQ. Photo courtesy SFU Galleries.

Title/Date: British Columbia Pagent, 1951
Artist: Charles comfort
Culture/Language group: Scottish-Canadian 
Media: Oil on Canvas
Credit Line: SFU Art Collection. Gift of Toronto Dominion Bank, 2003


Since it appeared in the Academic Quadrangle (AQ) in 2004, Charles Comfort’s mural, British Columbia Pageant, has been a source of discussion and controversy. Criticized for its standardized representation of Canadian history, the mural portrays adventurous and brave European men taming the “savage” lands. Through Comfort’s imagery, the province itself is presented as an explorer’s paradise. Great men from the past are seen taking advantage of the vast opportunities the empty landscape presents.

The Comfort mural is a historical misrepresentation of Canadian history and very much a product of its time (1951). It excludes non-European settler populations, notably Asian communities in BC; it excludes the enormous contributions made by women to the development of the province; and it presents First Nations quite literally as window dressing, as symbols drawn from First Nations’ culture frame the contents of the mural.

In response to the painting, an Anti-colonial Art Contest (ACAC) was held along with a panel discussion between November, 2004 and February, 2005. The art contest was an effort to bring forward representations of what is missing in British Columbia Pageant that would make it a true representation of colonialism. The winner of the contest (Teen BC), and one of the runners up (Civilization is a Crime Scene), are located on the opposite side of the hall from the mural. Teen BC is a wood based sculpture comparing the rhetorical and social glue that binds a newly colonized British Columbia. Among many other things, Teen BC presents bullets, the church, wood, and the railway, as elements missing from Comfort’s depiction.

Civilization is a Crime Scene. Photo courtesy SFU Galleries
Teen BC. Photos courtesy SFU Galleries and Reese Muntean

Title/Date: Civilization is a Crime Scene, 2005
Artist: A.S. Matta
Culture/Language group: Unknown 
Media: Lithograph on Paper
Credit Line: SFU Art Collection. Gift of AFU Anti-Colonialism Society, 2005

Title/Date: Teen BC, 2005 (front and back)
Artist: Nate Woodbury
Culture/Language group: Unknown 
Media: Mixed Media (wood, metal, fur, paint, newspaper, tape)
Credit Line: SFU Art Collection. Gift of SFU Anti-Colonialism Society, 2005

Additional Information - Resetting the Cedar Table  

Charles Comfort’s British Columbia Pageant was a gift of the Toronto Dominion Bank, 2003. Nate Woodbury’s Teen BC, and A.S. Matta’s Civilization is a Crime Scene were gifts of SFU’s Anit-Colonialism Society.

The Cedar Table Series Anti-Colonial Art Contest (CTS-ACAC) was co-organized by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and the First Nations Student Society between November 2004 and and February 2005.


Murphy, Ryan A. “Anti-Colonial Art: A cure for Amnesia and eyesores?” in What is Colonialism. Spec. issue of The West Coast Line. Vol. 41, Issue 3. (2007): 4-25. Web.

Strother, Miguel. “Comfort Controversy” SFU News Archive: Simon Fraser University. January 27, 2005. Web.

Vanderhill, Jason. “Illustrated Vancouver Vol 15 – BC Pageant by Charles Comfort”. In Vancouver is Awesome. November 12, 2011. Web.

Colonial Representation:

Anonymous. “What is Colonialism” in What is Colonialism. Spec. issue of The West Coast Line. Vol. 41, Issue 3. (2007): 4-25. Web.

Thomas, Nicholas. Colonialism’s Culture: Anthropology, Travel, and Government. 1994. Oxford: Polity Press: Print.

The Artists:

Anonymous. “Winners of the Anti-Colonial Art Contest” in What is Colonialism. Spec. issue of The West Coast Line. Vol. 41, Issue 3. (2007): 4-25. Web.

“Charles Comfort.” Wikipedia. 2015. Web.