2018 Jury Speech

Author and Spokesperson: El Jones

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we stand in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded lands of the Mi’kmaq people. When we begin with a land acknowledgement, we should not simply speak empty words for the sake of saying them – but these words should prompt us to think about how to do the hard work of decolonization and justice making. We recognize in this acknowledgement the knowledge, culture, and arts of the Mi’kmaq people and the forcible suppression of language and culture by colonization. We honour all those artists, knowledge keepers, and elders who held and taught and continue to teach and preserve culture and ways of being, and we challenge ourselves as settlers to think about how our work benefits from ongoing colonialization and our obligation to Indigenous artists in the institutions we participate in.

My name is El Jones, and I am honoured to be the Spokesperson of the Jury for the 2018 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award.

In our jury discussions, something we thought hard about was what makes a piece of art a masterwork – a work not only executed with a high level of skill, a work not only of outstanding quality, but also a work with a strong impact and critical reception. The submissions to this year’s competition demonstrated the broad range of artists in all disciplines working in Nova Scotia or with a significant connection to this province. We saw works in all genres, and every single submission showed that artists in Nova Scotia are doing world class work. Congratulations to every artist who submitted, and it was a true pleasure and honour for all of us to get to know your work.

The jury for this award was made up of individuals from different cultural and racial backgrounds, diverse disciplines, ages, areas of the province, and from a variety of perspectives. From these completely different lenses and perspectives, thoughtful and critical discussion consistently emerged. In a world where so much discussion is polarized and there often seems like there is little consensus or common ground between people, the work of this jury itself exemplifies the power of art to build bridges, to create relationships, to challenge and to reach across divides. It was an honour to serve on this jury.

The jurors this year, in alphabetical order were:

Catherine Banks
Sara Hartland-Rowe
Asif Illyas
Ursula Johnson
Scott Simpson

Now more than ever, I believe that art is needed for its power to create conversation, to remind us about beauty, to push us to see beyond ourselves, to tell stories, to engage our critical faculties, and to do the hard work of being human. The word master refers to proficiency, and to the superior quality of the art recognized tonight. But we also remember that a master is a teacher, and these works also teach us in so many ways. The works tonight represent the very best that Nova Scotia has to offer. Congratulations to the artists. These works truly are masterful.

On behalf of the jury, I thank all the artists, and it is truly a privilege to congratulate you all.

Thank you.