Nuit Blanche: the name says it all. The French term means “sleepless night,” but the social and cultural implications of the words speak for themselves.
“We noticed there weren’t very many Black-centered events at the festival,” Alexa Potashnik, founder of Black Space Winnipeg, says.
Potashnik started Nuit Noire last year. The event showcases Afrocentric art, taking place alongside Nuit Blanche.
“The artist community in Winnipeg can be very Eurocentric,” she explains. “We wanted to dedicate a night to art that was Afrocentric and local.”
Blanche, meaning “white,” has come to reflect not only the artists but also the people attending the event. Nuit translates to “night”; Milena believes that downtown Winnipeg at night isn’t usually the hangout spot of white folks, or the middle-class.
Since its incubation, Nuit Blanche has gained popularity, drawing hordes of people who wouldn’t usually visit the area at night. The irony isn’t lost on Milena, a past curator who wishes to go by her first name.
“I have noticed a targeted effort to remove marginalized people from the Exchange District and surrounding area leading up to Nuit Blanche,” Milena explains. She speculates that while this increases the feeling of safety of patrons, it also erases the reality of poverty in the area.
Most art exhibitions charge admission, which is how Nuit Blanche differs. Since admission is free, the event is largely financially accessible.
While art remains the main attraction, the event is well-known as an opportunity for suburbians to party downtown.
“It’s a booze fest that feeds the entitlement of folks who come to the Exchange to be entertained,” Milena says.
Nuit Noire is an effort to add nuance to Nuit Blanche.
“It’s a safe space for POC (people of colour) to articulate authentic expression and performance art,” Potashnik explains.
Monica Lowe, chair of Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, says they are excited about having Black Space and Nuit Noire participate for the second year in a row.
“We want to ensure that we're proactively working to reach diverse communities, facilitating their participation and creating a genuinely inclusive and welcoming night for both artists and event-goers,” Lowe says.
An Afrocentric venue encourages the public to support Black artists.
“We open it up to our community, but also to the public and to allies,” Potashnik says. Lowe explains that discussions with Black Space Winnipeg have helped them understand how to improve their outreach to minority groups.
Nuit Noire will take place at aceartinc. at 2-290 McDermot Ave., thus reclaiming space for POC in the heart of the festival. The night will host performers including Mahlet Cuff, Uri Portillo and Dubem Ukaigwe.
Nuit Noire takes place alongside Nuit Blanche on Sept. 30, starting at 7 p.m.
Published in Volume 72, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 21, 2017)