The celafi25.com collection was born out of my online search in 2014 for evidence of the mammoth and purposeful undertakings by Canadian Artist Network: Black Artist In Action (CAN: BAIA). Its flagship events, the CELAFI 1992 and CELAFI 1997 Conferences and Festivals, were events whose objectives were to unite and showcase the wealth of Canada's National Black community of artist practitioners and their creations. The events were groundbreaking at the time, and surely, there would be a lasting record of these important events and the works they showcased. Sadly, I found little to nothing of this national/international diaspora’s artistic perspective online, and relatively little reference to the hundreds of Canadians and their International counterparts who participated in these two extraordinary events - How could that be?
CELAFI 1997’s theme celebrated Canadian Black Artists’ and their art on the cusp of the 21st century, with all the promise the century ahead offered, so it was devastating in 2014, fourteen years into this new millennium's accelerated digital age, to realize "Black Canadian Artists" were less than a blip on Canada's recorded national historic arts mosaic.
CELAFI's invisibility pricked my soul, because I was privy to the hard work of over 1500 individuals from across the country who laboured on behalf of both CELAFI 1992 and CELAFI 1997, in particular, CAN:BAIA's President - Ayanna Black, whose incredibly dogged determination made these landmark events in Canada's history a reality, and shone much needed light where there was none. “Put this right” was my next thought-cloud. As one of CELAFI 1992’s event producers and CELAFI 1997’s General Manager, I could take on the responsibility to make it so from my own personal archives. “Could” quickly turned to “will” when, as if by magic, community activist/Staples Copy Center Manager Sandra Andrews entered my orbit and offered to digitize my collection and just as unexpectedly Betty (Reynolds-Clarke), a close friend and long-standing “art-culture advocate” and audience participant in both CELAFI events, supplied un-wavering encouragement and her own collection of artifacts.
The impetus to build the CELAFI'25 Archive, a dynamic and ever evolving collection of Black Canadian Artists and their creations then and now, and do so with support from CELAFI 1997’s Alumnus Orla Garriques is driven by a sense of "Loss": Loss of history; Loss of an education/mentorship resource; Loss of community. “Putting it right” is an act of reconnection and creative healing, and we are doing just that!!
Betty Reynolds Clarke
ART CONNECTS, Orla Garriques
The current contents of the CELAFI'25 Archive are drawn from Marva Ollivierre’s personal records with contributions from Orla Garriques and Betty Reynolds Clarke. We encourage you to keep the collection dynamic and evolving by contributing your own memories and/or archive of your personal art practice then and now, so making the invisible visible and our art history vital in all its configurations.
Betty Reynolds Clarke
Betty Reynolds Clarke’s unwavering friendship has been my constant companion and a moral compass for almost as long as I have been in Canada, my transplanted homeland. Hearing her glorious voice in song is as comforting and reassuring as the care and nurturing she imbue into a storied nursing career, and the encouragement she continues to un-failingly provides as a true “art-culture advocate”