UAAC / AAUC KEYNOTE.1: Charmaine Nelson

Thursday, October 15 | 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM (PDT) | Zoom | FREE (link sent with registration)

Please check back HERE for the Zoom link

Please join us for a keynote lecture by Charmaine A. Nelson (Professor of Art History, McGill University), presented as part of the Universities Art Association of Canada's 2020 conference.

When in 1688, King Louis XIV of France was petitioned to allow the importation of enslaved people from the French Caribbean into New France, he expressed concern for the ability of Africans to adapt to Canadian winters. With the “success” of New England Slavery upheld as evidence of African acclimatization in the region, royal assent was given in 1689. Although present in the region from at least the early seventeenth century, both free and enslaved blacks, regardless of ancestry, have been continuously unhomed in Canada. The erasure of an historical black Canadian presence has in part been facilitated by historical pseudo-scientific ideas of African unsuitability to Canada’s cold climate.

This lecture develops two Quebec case studies of the representation of black people in the Canadian winter, the first a set of eighteenth-century fugitive slave advertisements (which will be analyzed as visual culture), and the second, a nineteenth-century studio portrait of African-Canadian sitters by the prominent nineteenth-century photography studio William Notman and Son. The first case study explores a set of fugitive slave advertisements for winter escapes to expose what they reveal about the nature of slave experience and resistance in Canada. The second case study argues that the choice of a winter backdrop for a Montreal studio portrait in 1901, was a bold counter-hegemonic assertion of African-Canadian belonging at a moment of wide-spread anti-black immigration sentiment.


Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History at McGill University where she has taught since 2003. She will soon begin a new appointment as a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD) in Halifax, CANADA where she will also become the founding director of the first-ever institute focused on the study of Canadian Slavery.

She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. To date she has published 7 books including The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016), and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018), the first book to consolidate the field of African Canadian Art History. Nelson has given over 240 lectures, papers, and talks across Canada, and the USA, and in Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, the UK, Central America, and the Caribbean. An award-winning teacher, she also frequently publishes her students’ research on platforms like her undergraduate student journal Chrysalis: A Critical Student Journal of Transformative Art History. Nelson is also actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, BBC One, PBS, the Montreal Gazette, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. She blogs for the Huffington Post Canada and writes for The Walrus. Nelson has held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (2007) and a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, University of California – Santa Barbara (2010). Most recently, she was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-18). 

Other Public UAAC / AAUC

UAAC / AAUC: Book Launch & Roundtable
Friday, October 16 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM (PDT) | Zoom | FREE

UAAC / AAUC: KEYNOTE.2: Stan Douglas
Saturday, October 17 | 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM (PDT) | Zoom | FREE

To see a full schedule of the UAAC / AAUC 2020 conference, please go HERE.

This conversation will be filmed and broadcast live from the World Art Centre at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (Simon Fraser University), located on the unceded Traditional Coast Salish Lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Nations.

Sponsored by the School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University; Office of the Dean, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Simon Fraser University; the Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, University of British Columbia; Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of British Columbia; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

October 15, 2020