Nuit Blanche 2018 brings art to Scarborough

“Oh, there’s a line?” A young woman asked the security guard, laughing. “Say word, I was not aware of that. I’m sorry fam.”

The line that she didn’t see was headed into the Scarborough Civic Centre Saturday night, where artists were scheduled to perform from sunset to sunrise. The line was over 100 people long because, for the first time in 13 years, Nuit Blanche brought its all-night art party to Scarborough.

Over 20 projects were set up around Scarborough Town Centre and the Scarborough Civic Centre. There were a few at stations along Line 3 of the TTC, a.k.a. the Scarborough RT, and 10 installations for the newly curated exhibit, STYLL.

Every project in STYLL was created by artists from Scarborough and involved its communities. From a chilling walk through the forest in “Law of the Land” to emotional untold stories of Scarborough residents in “EVERYTHING I WANTED TO TELL YOU,” STYLL blurred the border lines between downtown Toronto and its suburbs.

“Scarborough is a community of primarily working-class immigrants, Indigenous communities and first-generation Canadians. These historically under-resourced, and often ignored, communities have used their collective action to influence the creativity of this place,” said Alyssa Fearon, curator of Scarborough’s Nuit Blanche installations, in her statement on the exhibit.

Ekow Nimako is one of these artists. Born in Montreal, Nimako moved to Scarborough as a teenager and studied fine arts at York University. His project, “Cavalier Noir” proposes his vision of a monument for his community: a Black child warrior mounted over a tall black unicorn. It was inspired by questioning who Canadians call their “heroes.” With over 80,000 black Lego pieces involved, the project took 700 hours to make.

Nimako collaborated with filmmaker Director X, who helped expand the vision of this piece. Nimako told the crowd around his work that they had a conversation about taking elements of “hip-hop’s creative strategies… existing, discarded, often overlooked elements and flipping them to inspire and amplify voices of the oppressed.”

When asked if LEGO sponsors his work, Ekow Nimako said no and is OK with that because they’re a big corporation. “I’m an independent artist,” Nimako said. (Raizel Harjosubroto/Ryerson Folio)

Just through the doors behind this installation and into the Civic Centre was “Wards,” a video installation with residents mapping out a route to a significant or important place to them in Scarborough. “Wards” invited people into the Council Chamber of the Civic Centre in light of the upcoming municipal elections and while it’s a dry, bureaucratic topic, it will affect everyone. This installation unifies the wards of Scarborough and reminds us that it is one whole community.

Viewers were invited to share a significant or important route to them as video installation “Wards” played in the Council Chamber of the Scarborough Civic Centre. (Matt Forsythe/blogTO)

As the Brooklyn of Toronto in my eyes, Scarborough is filled with artists and creators that take their experiences into their work and reclaim the space that they feel has been taken away from them.

“There’s definitely a very underrated art scene here,” crowd manager Marian Christine said. “We weren’t sure what the turn out would be, but it’s looking really good… Now that it’s here and is accessible to people here, the people of Scarborough are coming out and supporting one another. It’s really cool.”

Should Nuit Blanche extend to other neighbourhoods around the city? Perhaps Etobicoke or even the Beaches? Christine said that though it’ll take a long time, it’s definitely a possibility.

“This can be so much more than it is. This whole city is made up of cool and unique people. Each of their stories deserve to be told,” Christine said. “I think it’s definitely worth doing.”

The Scarborough extension of Nuit Blanche celebrated its people without glorifying the struggles of its communities. STYLL forces us to question what the borders we live within are: What do we take with us when we enter a new place? What do we leave behind? How do we create borders? How do we separate our experiences and bring them together?