Early CAN:BAIA projects included literary readings and visual arts exhibitions. In 1992, CAN:BAIA coordinated its first major undertaking, a six-day international, multi-disciplinary conference and festival, CELAFI '92, held at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre with the theme 'Celebrating African Identity: Strategies of Empowerment, Affirmation and Discovery'. Among the artists involved were writers Austin Clarke, Cecil Foster and Lawrence Hill. The success of CELAFI '92, which included a tribute to the international filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, led five years later to CELAFI '97, a multi-venue, international event with the theme 'Celebrating African Identity: Entering the Millennium', which again provided an opportunity for African Canadian artists and their work to receive national and international exposure. CELAFI '97 events included many first: the first exhibitions of works by African Canadian artists at both the Art Gallery Of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum and the first stage reading of “Beatrice Chancy" a new play by George Elliott Clarke, poet, novelist and playright
Celafi 92 video (5 minute
CELAFI 1992 & 1997 OVERVIEW
Canadian Artists Network: Black Artists in Action (CAN:BAIA) was a national, multi-disciplinary organization representing black artists in Canada. In 1988 a group of artists, including Ayanna Black, Glace W. Lawrence, Marva Jackson, Vernon Eccles, Adrienne Shadd, David Zapparoli, Cameron Bailey, Hazel Da Breo, Charles Gray, Karen Tyrell, Chloe Onari, Janice Brangman, Errol Nazareth and Yasmin Newson, came together with a vision to provide information, advocacy and education for African Canadian artists in all disciplines. In the fall of 1990, CAN:BAIA was incorporated as a non-profit organization, with a board of directors and executive committee drawn from representatives across the country. Funding was sought from Canada Council, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Ministry of Culture, Citizenship and Recreation, and the Toronto Arts Council, as well as other agencies. Membership grew to include professional artists, cultural workers, curators, art educators and art enthusiasts.
The 'First Light: Celebrating African Canadian Cinema' festival was held in 1994 and provided a venue for works by African Canadian film and video makers. In 1994-1995, CAN:BAIA presented a series of traveling skills development workshops, designed and facilitated by Marva Ollivierre, which offered artists across the country information and training in marketing and presentation of their creative output. The workshops were presented in six provinces. This led to the annual event 'Pelekeana', directed by Len Henry and staged in Toronto and Vancouver, featuring art exhibitions, performances and panel discussions. Another annual event was 'Dance Immersion', directed by Vivine Scarlett and showcasing African Canadian dance artists at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.
In 1996, Marva Ollivierre on-behalf of CAN:BAIA initiated the launch of a National Black Artists' Resource Centre and Slide Registry, to record the work of African Canadian artists, a pre-cursor to the CELAFI'97. In1999 CAN:BAIA found itself in financial crisis as public funding dwindled and ceased operations.