Primary health care quilters come together to honour African heritage and unite Guysborough County communities

One cool brisk summer evening in 2016, friends were sitting on a porch in Manchester, Guysborough County. 

Those friends were Janet Grant, a seasoned quilter, and Lorraine Brymer, a local primary health care coordinator with Nova Scotia Health Authority.

The hot topic  that evening was quilting, particularly the beauty and meaning that some quilts possess. It was then that Grant showed Brymer a photo of an African Queen Quilt pattern that she had been working on. 

The quilt’s intricate colours, along with the strength and power of these historic African Queens, seemed to be brought to life in the beauty of its design, serving as an important visual reminder.

That’s when a true partnership began, and the two leaders formed what became The Primary Health Care Unity Quilting Group of Guysborough County.

Immediately, Brymer thought about the role that quilting has played in people’s lives – including in primary health care.

Learning to quilt keeps your brain sharp, can be an incredible stress reliever, sparks your creativity and helps emotionally, mentally and socially. On top of that, you take away a new skillset that you can use your entire life. You can also share and teach this unique skill to others. 

The primary care quilting group in Guysborough County had a great age spectrum – from as young as six years old to participants in their 80s. These quilters came together to create a wonderful piece of engagement and diversity, while also receiving a powerful history lesson about the importance and roles played by great African Queens throughout their reigns.

Chedabucto Place is home to the Afrikan Canadian Heritage Friendship Centre, which is led by Patsy Borden, who provided a welcoming venue for NSHA’s quilting project.

Borden supplied the location and warmth for us to house the learning experience of quilting, and for the participants to be engaged culturally, as the centre holds a variety of artifacts and wealth of black history, serving as a true legacy to all Black Nova Scotian settlers. 

An amazing search for fabric followed. We required the perfect colour patterns, as well as the chance to create individual queens that the participants could relate to and draw strength from. The fabrics began to take on life, with some purchased and others donated, giving the history of this quilt even more depth.

Word of the quilt spread through the community and a group of lovely ladies and youngsters signed up to be part of this adventure. The dedicated team worked two hours every Tuesday evening for multiple weeks to produce two beautiful African Queen Quilts. 

Part 1 of the project will remain at the Afrikan Canadian Heritage Friendship Centre and Part 2 of the quilt is located in the new primary health care wing of the Guysborough Memorial Hospital, welcoming patients in the waiting room. 

As a group, the quilters came together on the last evening, to choose a name to represent its makers and the quilt itself. The quilt was named after one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, or a “festival-celebration of African cultural heritage and traditional values.” Umoja/Unity is about attachment to each other and most importantly, to the values which define us as a family, community and people. 

The African Queen Quilt Part 1 was unveiled on February 1, 2017, during the Strait Regional School Board Heritage Month. School board members were drummed into the meeting by Wayne Hamilton, executive director of African Nova Scotian Affairs. He was joined by board member Joanne Reddick in the singing of the Black National Anthem. 

The African Queen Quilt Part 2 was given to Nova Scotia Health Authority’s eastern zone primary health care department January 6, 2017. Primary health care director Kathy Bell and manager Kathy Anne Woodford came to view the quilt and thanked Brymer, Grant and the rest of the The Primary Health Care Unity Quilting Group of Guysborough County for their wonderful contribution to their community and for helping to celebrate African Nova Scotian heritage.

The quilts can now be viewed publicly at their respective homes in Guysborough County, at the Afrikan Canadian Heritage Friendship Centre and at Guysborough Memorial Hospital.

Click here for more information on the Afrikan Canadian Heritage Friendship Centre.