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Position As Desired’s Themes

Position As Desired presents the works of African Canadian artists who explore and express their own experiences and notions of identity. Their works, which fall under the exhibition’s three themes: Historical Perspective, 1990s Identity Politics and Contemporary Viewpoints, overtly or subliminally challenge the “single story” of African Canadian identity. Shaped by historically dominant and highly politicized discourses about race and belonging, the complexity and diversity of African Canadian identity is often essentialized as a static object, characterized as constantly on the margins of society, identifiable by visible difference and adjunct to the nation-state.

Through their works, these artists position themselves as they desire, and in so doing, disrupt hegemonic discourses of African Canadian identity by contributing to a grounded knowledge of African Canadian experience.

Position As Desired’s Nova Scotia Component

Position As Desired, originally exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2010-2011, was designed with the intention to insert African Canadian visual arts into mainstream Canadian consciousness. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, in partnership with exhibition curator Kenneth Montague, recognized the need and opportunity to integrate artworks produced by African Nova Scotian artists into the thematic framework of Position As Desired, for its duration in Halifax.

The selection of local works was informed by an advisory committee of academics, artists, culture and heritage professionals and community leaders from Nova Scotia. The committee actively sought artworks and photography by African Nova Scotians that could be incorporated into the exhibition’s themes. The committee’s recommended selections were then reviewed by the Museum’s Chief Curator and the exhibition curator.

The local selections add an additional layer of knowledge to Position As Desired’s inquiry into the diversity of African Canadian experiences.

Click here to learn about the criteria used for selecting the Nova Scotian artworks.


Untitled (Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church), Photographer Unknown, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Digital Print, c. 1900.

The photo above is one of the local works presented in Position As Desired under the Historical Perspective theme. It depicts a group of Black Loyalists standing in front of the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church, in Shelburne, c. 1900. The balsam fir and the snow on the ground suggest they were decorating the church for Christmas.


The Museum would like to thank our project supporters, collaborators and partners:

Sobaz Benjamin
Arlene Butler, Black Loyalist Heritage Society
Dr. Afua Cooper, James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Dalhousie University
Gene Daniels, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
Ingrid Jenkner, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery
Sunday Miller, Africville Heritage Trust
Shannon Parker, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
David Woods
Lois Yorke, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management
Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs