Donna James

Donna James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1960. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and undertook graduate studies in Architecture at the University of Calgary.

Her art practice has evolved from text-based photography to video and most recently film/video installation. From using photography as objective portraiture and a means to challenge preconceived notions of black women, her work has evolved to a more personal exploration of storytelling, oral history and the imprint of memory in the construction of self. Her work benefits from story telling, commemoration and familial histories. She finds the inquiry into memory important to the politics of representation, particularly for people of colour whose representation has often been dictated by others. Her work often focuses on reconciling loss through personal exploration, and a re-examination of story telling and oral history using interviews as a dialectic tool.

Solo photography exhibitions have taken place at A Space (Toronto) and Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery (Halifax). Group exhibitions include film/video festivals in Grenoble, France, Accra, Ghana, Chicago, U.S.A. where she won 2nd runner up in the video competition at the 4th Annual African-American Women’s Conference of the Arts. Her work was featured in the international touring video exhibition,
Magnetic North: Canadian Experimental Video that resulted in a book of the same name. Her work is also featured in the book, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses by Laura U. Marks. Her videos are in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Council Art Bank, and the Ottawa Art Gallery among others. Donna also worked for a number of years managing the Broadcasting, Film and Audio/Visual funding program at the Department of Canadian Heritage (1992-1997). She currently lives and works in Ottawa and spends summers in Nova Scotia.

Artist Code: 175


"the thickness of guidance..."

1998, 04:07 minutes, colour, English

Work To Live...

1993, 01:00 minutes, colour, English

Maigre Dog

1990, 07:50 minutes, English / Patois, closed captions

Critical Writing

Shifts and Transfers: On some tendencies in Canadian video
by Nicole Gingras. Shifts and Transfers. On some tendencies in Canadian video, Mar. 28, 2003. Ottawa: Ottawa Art Gallery, 2003.
big hip: Women Behind the Camera
by Glace W. Lawrence. The Word, Apr. 13, 1995.
Mirror Machine: Video and Identity
by Janine Marchessault. YYZ Books, McGill University, 1995.
Don't Go to Dat Place and Fool Around Like Rich Girls:: Black...
by Gabrielle Hezekiah. Cineaction, Fall 1993, no. 32.
Don't Go to Dat Place and Fool Around Like Rich Girls: Black...
by Gabrielle Hezekiah. cineACTION, Fall 1993, no. 32.
Black On Screen: Black Canadian Women Filmmakers and Video Artists
by Claire Prieto and National Film Board of Canada.
Regeneration: 13 October - 25 November 1990
by Christine Conley. Regeneration, 1990. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1990.