Halifax's Nocturne festival curated by Indigenous artist for the first time ever

For the first time in Nocturne's 10-year history, an Indigenous artist, Raven Davis, curated the annual nighttime art festival. The Anishinaabe artist was chosen after the Halifax-based festival partnered with the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective.
Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild with Raven Davis, Nocturne festival's first Indigenous curator. (Zoe Tennant/CBC)

Originally published on Oct. 21, 2018.

For the first time in Nocturne's 10-year history, an Indigenous artist, Raven Davis, curated the annual nighttime art festival. 

The Anishinaabe artist was chosen after the Halifax-based festival partnered with the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective. 

"This is a giant step for Nocturne," Davis told Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild. 

According to Davis, there was a 50 per cent increase in applications to the Oct.13 festival this past year — the majority coming from Black, Indigenous and people of colour. She sees that as a "great success."

"It means that there is 50 per cent more new artists, who maybe haven't felt like they've been represented at these festivals, are coming out to make work."  

This year's theme, Nomadic Reciprocity, was chosen by Davis. The idea came from conversations she'd been having recently around the question, "As Indigenous people, where's our rights on the land?"

"I'm always on the road and sometimes I feel, 'These are my ancestors.' [Indigenous people] were travelers," Davis said.

She was taught that Indigenous people were once nomadic in nature, moving around based on the seasons, for access to water, and hunting. 

But colonial travelers, on the other hand, just took and didn't give back. At least not equally.

"And so that reciprocal action is 'Here we are, we're traveling, we're settling in different cities, and what are we giving and what are we taking?'"

Nigerian artist Oluseye's Untitled (Black Balloons) was a commentary on Black labour used to build the western world. (Nocturne/Instagram)

Nigerian-born artist Oluseye's work was a meditation on that very question.

His installation at the Maritime Museum featured a boat suspended from the ceiling with black balloons cascading from its base. At the centre was an anchor that sat on on a table covered in white linen with fine china and glassware.  

"It represents the work and the labour that Black people have had to endure to build a lot of the western world," Davis explained.

"For a Nigerian-born artist to be here in Halifax, in a place that had slavery … it's just a really brilliant piece."

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.