Research Walk: Africville, August 2, 2015

On Sunday August 2, 2015, NiS+TS led a public walk starting from the Africville Museum (at Africville Park, Halifax). This was a research creation walk in an area of Halifax affected by the Explosion of December 6, 1917. Africville was a vibrant community of primarily African Canadian residents that existed on the shore of the Bedford basin from the 1840’s onward. The Halifax Explosion’s destructive force was lessened here by the hill south of the community, which shielded it from the full force of the blast, though Africville did still suffer tragic losses of life and property. These damages were compensated by the city in only half of the percentages granted to Explosion victims in other areas of the city – 10% of damage costs versus 20% – exemplifying the systemic racism and prejudice the community endured until it was razed by the city in the 1960’s in the name of “urban renewal.”

Working with the Africville Heritage Trust, NiS+TS produced a postcard featuring an iconic photograph taken just days after the Halifax Explosion. Four women, unidentified members of the Africville community, are seen walking through the devastated Richmond neighbourhood. In the hopes of identifying the women in the photograph and strengthening historical records, this postcard was distributed to walk participants at the beginning of the walk. Additionally, participants were provided with this informational brochure outlining the route taken during the walk and the suggested activities for participants to engage in along the way: Walking the Debris Field – Africville.

The walk was an opportunity to converse informally with each other, and to gather images, artifacts and ideas about this contemporary urban landscape. Participants used the methods of produsage (collaborative content creation, sometimes user-led) and psychogeography (an approach to experiencing space that is based on the dérive, a drifting walk through urban environments).

“Africville” is featured as a Drift on NiS+TS’ iOS app “Drifts” and on the Into the Debris Field website.