The fabric of Letitia Fraser | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

The fabric of Letitia Fraser

The North Preston painter showcases her roots, and her community, through her exhibit Mommay's Patches: Tradtions & Superstitions.

The fabric of Letitia Fraser
Meaghan Tansey Whitton

Mommay's Patches: Traditions and Superstitions
February 5 to 9
Anna Leonowens Gallery, 1891 Granville Street

The never-ending tapestry that is the African Nova Scotian experience is receiving the art exhibition treatment this week at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. Just in time for African Heritage Month, Mommay's Patches: Traditions and Superstitions by artist Letitia Fraser is on full display, showcasing her family and community as they are—not as they appear to be.

"We're not really represented a lot...or in a positive light," says Fraser. "I just wanted to give people a look into my community through my lens and see what we're actually like, as opposed to what you might hear somewhere else."

And who better than Fraser to shine a light on the culture? A descendant of North Preston, the young painter received the Nova Scotia Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship and the 2018 RBC Emerging Artist Award, and has already had work in numerous exhibits.

Emerging from a long line of artists, including her uncle and mother, Fraser's creative talents have been nurtured since childhood. Recounting her mother's crafts which decorated her home, she's literally been surrounded by inspiration and encouragement.

"It was just natural for me to do what she was doing and she always pushed me to be more creative," says Fraser of her mother, who helped her enrol in early art programs at her future university, NSCAD.

Now, years later, Fraser is putting the final touches on her graduation exhibition which opened to the public this week. Inspired by her grandmother Rosella "Mommay" Fraser, the works feature oil paintings of family members on fabric canvases reminiscent of the quilts her grandmother used to make.

"I just wanted to be as resourceful as she was back in the days when she was providing for her family," says Fraser of Mommay, a mother of 15 children living in a small non-insulated house built by her grandfather. "She would use worn-out clothes and fabrics and make quilts to keep the family warm—so I wanted to tie that into my work."

And the tradition of familial support carries on for Fraser, who received much help and insight from her relatives during the preliminary stages of her project. Interviewing aunts and cousins about their North Preston roots, she's infused her art with symbolism representative of traditions and superstitions popular in the community, such as an itchy palm signifying imminent monetary gains. "They've been really supportive and willing to help, so I'm grateful," says Fraser.

With graduation nearing and an impressive exhibit to showcase, the future looks bright for Fraser, who hopes to continue working with Black communities within Nova Scotia and inspiring young Black artists. As for what she hopes visitors take away from her deep-rooted and personal collection of paintings, it's simply that they see it and realize the love, joy and humanity within each image.

"Like I said, we're not represented very well, so I just want to show my community in another light," says Fraser. "I want to give people a different view and perspective, and I hope they come out and enjoy."

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