Return of Nuit Blanche shines a light on BIPOC artists and their work

Oct 7, 2022 | Arts, Headlines

This year, Nuit Blanche included works by more than 150 local, national and international creators, highlighted by numerous BIPOC artists across Toronto, Etobicoke, and North York.

“To see that many people, young and old, together walking down the streets of Toronto celebrating and embracing the art of many cultures of the city was truly special,” said Nuit Blanche-goer Julianna Perez.

Artist Destinie Adelakun, an award-winning contemporary Canadian multi-disciplinary artist, was one of the artists there, displaying her photographic essay “Daughters of Diaspora.”

“I try to educate and bring back these stories but through modern conceptualized contemporary art,” Adelakun said.

The work covers the significance of women from the African diaspora, a journey she started in 2016, researching West African ancestral practices and created a new-age diaspora to visualize a piece of themselves and their ancestors through these photographs.

“I join in the quest of liberating people of the modern diaspora, which includes women of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, visible minorities, and the immigrant population,” she said.

This year’s theme, The Space Between Us, invited artists to build bridges between cultures and connect with communities and the environment, transforming the city by telling stories about their connections through different forms of art.

Adeyemi Adegbesan, also known as Yung Yemi, is a Black Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist who displayed his art at Nuit Blanche in North York and Etobicoke.

“From a very young age I remember feeling that any time I was in a group with friends in a public space, our presence was unwanted,” he said. “When we found new spaces to exist, the signage followed: ‘no loitering,’ ‘keep out,’ ‘smile, you’re on camera – trespassers will be prosecuted.'”

The series, called Those Who Watch Over Us, is an art installation of what he says is a subversion of surveillance and private property signage which in his life has often felt like it is directed at the Black community.

“Art is a reflection of society. In a city where the population is over 50 per cent BIPOC, it wouldn’t make sense if we weren’t displaying art by BIPOC artists at events like Nuit Blanche,” he said.

Yemi said he hopes the future of BIPOC artists’ representation in public art moves forward because of the value it has on others.

“My job as an artist is to introduce new perspectives, free from the social constructs we inherit at birth,” Yemi said. “So I’m imagining a narrative whereas as a Black person I feel that my presence is valued in public spaces.

“I feel welcomed. I feel surrounded by the presence of our ancestors,” he said.