As we near the beginning of African Heritage Month, we proudly showcase a tapestry of cultural celebrations across our 14 branches and two Community Offices.
This year, Library staff and community partners find ourselves wrapped in the vibrant colours and intricate patterns of Nahom Assefa, the winner of our 2024 African Heritage Month T-Shirt Design Contest. Nahom's creation isn't just fabric and dye; it's a story woven from the heart of the African Nova Scotian community.
About Nahom Assefa
As part of the African diaspora himself, 19-year-old Nahom's journey began far from the shores of Nova Scotia. Originally from Ethiopia, he brings a rich tapestry of cultural and artistic influences to his works. The self-taught artist has been practicing his craft since childhood, drawing inspiration from the world of animation and the vibrancy of traditional African art. His passion shines through in his work, which mixes traditional and modern aesthetics.
"I've been growing up practicing and looking at art and watching animation movies since I was a kid,” says Nahom. “Part of the inspiration is trying to get the chaotic images in my head into something concrete — something people can see."
Win for Heritage and Design
When Nahom's design was announced as the winner of our 2024 African Heritage Month T-shirt Contest, he was ecstatic.
"I mean, wow, “ says Nahom. “Just hearing that and finding out that I'm going to be part of [Halifax Public Libraries] 40th African Heritage Month anniversary—it's amazing.”
Needless to say, seeing his work worn by many of the attendees at our African Heritage Month Opening Night celebration was a dream come true for the young artist.
Inspiration Behind the Patterns
Nahom's design is a mosaic of lines and shapes, each a metaphor for the interwoven stories of the African diaspora.
“African patterns are very vivid and beautiful… it's like part of the character of being African,” says Nahom. “And the way I could infuse that pattern to this year's theme, is by integrating the two.”
From the "chaotic" possibilities of his imagination, Nahom sketched out his ideas, which he later transformed into digital art. The resulting T-shirt features a map of Africa, each country a jigsaw of the Pan-African Flag colours, with cultural motifs that add depth and connection to the continent's heritage.
“What the pattern teaches is part of the intertwining of different shapes, and lines,” says Nahom. “Part of the community’s challenge, as a diaspora, is integrating into the community—patterns perfectly reflect what I had in mind for this.”
Bringing something new and fresh while respecting tradition, Nahom’s approach is thoughtful and respectful of a culture with a rich past and a bright future.
A Message Woven in Fabric
More than just apparel, the t-shirt is a symbol of unity and a story of individual threads that create a community—from Ethiopia to Nova Scotia and beyond.
“We’re each individually part of the pattern—we can contribute something to the community,” says Nahom. “African heritage is part of the Nova Scotian community.”
Vision and Hope
Overjoyed that his design will be worn by many Library staff and community partners during this year’s African Heritage Month events and celebrations, Nahom’s hope is simple:
"I hope everyone likes the design, and thank you for celebrating the African heritage,” he says. “It's quite a treat to be here."
As we embrace African Heritage Month, Nahom’s t-shirt design is a reminder of the depth and diversity of the African diaspora, which is present in our Nova Scotian culture. It's a celebration, a declaration, and an invitation as we celebrate 40 years of honouring African Heritage Month.
To Nahom Assefa, we extend congratulations and a huge thank you for sharing your talents. Your design is a symbol of cultural pride and a cherished icon for our 2024 African Heritage Month festivities. Here's to a month filled with reflection, education, and vibrant celebration.
For a closer look at Nahom's stunning design and to explore more of this year's African Heritage Month festivities, visit our African Heritage Month website.