Walk down “Memory Lane” with Che Kothari at Nuit Blanche 2015

A 2005 Ryerson University graduate is now a 2015 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche curator. Che Kothari has made it. But his success didn’t come easy — it required hard work and a dream.  

Kothari’s journey began at the age of 15, when he travelled to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean. His visit coincided with the Curacao Carnival, an annual celebration of the island’s colourful culture and history. Seeing people express their identities and rich roots compelled Kothari to document the whole event.

Kothari realized he was learning in a way he would never have been able to by sitting in a classroom. He was living and feeling the moment, and with a camera in hand, he was capturing it.

These were the photos he would take back to Toronto to show people the island’s vibrant culture.

In pursuit of his dream, Kothari attended the image arts program at Ryerson University. Today, he is one of Toronto’s top photographers.  Kothari has earned himself that reputation having done portraits of hip-hop artists like Ice Cube, Ziggy Marley, K’naan and many more.

Kothari says that art is a growing and evolving process. The inspiration behind his own art changes from time to time. But currently, the purpose of his art is proof. “It’s proof that I was there, whatever I documented is happening, and the people that I choose to photograph are here,” he says. Each image is a part of history and a cultural legacy.

The idea of art as a documentation of history is most prevalent in his curatorial theme, Memory Lane,  for the 10 for 10th exhibition at this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Kothari says, “memory is one of the greatest gifts that we have as a species. It really impacts the way we interact, and see, and participate in the world.”

He says that as an artist, it is extremely important to study how we can reach our purpose as beings. One way to do that is to penetrate our deepest cores through the study of memory. Kothari believes this is meant to enlighten you of your true self and connect you to the community around you, creating memories that are personal but also part of a global storytelling. His exhibition aims to explore these personal and shared memories.

This year is Nuit Blanche’s 10th anniversary, which is why Kothari believes Memory Lane is a fitting theme. “These are the times where we can look back to realize where we are today and where we’ll go in the future.” The exhibition will incorporate 10 major cultural institutions like  OCAD University, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Kothari expresses that curating Nuit Blanche has been one of the biggest highlights of his career. “This is a monumental gathering connected to people globally.” This year’s attendance is estimated at one million people.

To young artists pursuing a dream like his, Kothari says it’s important to first find your vision and work with that. “Stay positive and find time to meditate, because that helps you connect with your purpose.”

Featured image by Wade Hudson