Unen­dorsed Noc­turne ex­hibit van­dal­izes Hal­i­fax water­front

Cutout dis­play in de­fence of John A. MacDon­ald in di­rect de­fi­ance of art ex­hi­bi­tion’s anti-colo­nial theme.




anony­mous photo-booth cutout of John A. MacDon­ald was drilled down into the Hal­i­fax water­front dur­ing Noc­turne last Satur­day night, stand­ing for a brief pe­riod in op­po­si­tion to the art fes­ti­val’s anti-colo­nial­ism theme.

The cutout was a de­fence of John A. MacDon­ald and his re­la­tions with In­dige­nous peo­ples. It fea­tured an “I’m OK with John A.” ban­ner and de­picted Canada’s first prime min­is­ter sit­ting in a ca­noe next to a pho­to­cutout hole of a per­son adorned with a Hud­son’s Bay blan­ket and fur hat.

A cap­tion on the ca­noe read, “No tax dol­lars were wasted in the cre­ation of this piece.”

The cutout at­trib­uted it­self to “Hal­i­fax Artists for Truth, En­light­en­ment and Rea­son.”

To our knowl­edge, this group does not ex­ist in any of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity. Noc­turne of­fi­cials also don’t know who put the board up.

In fact, the ‘art’ stands in op­po­si­tion to Noc­turne’s safer spaces state­ment. The or­ga­ni­za­tion aims to “host spaces that are widely ac­ces­si­ble, am­plify marginal­ized voices and lead­er­ship and ac­tively pri­or­i­tize anti-op­pres­sive prin­ci­ples.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lind­say Ann Cory, Noc­turne’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, artists are en­dorsed by Noc­turne through a series of ap­pli­ca­tions. The process is to make sure that their art is ap­proved by the city, has merit and adds to Noc­turne’s theme.

This project did not go through any of Noc­turne’s ap­pli­ca­tion sub­mis­sions.

“Of course, po­lit­i­cal state­ments have al­ways used art as a method of com­mu­ni­cat­ing a mes­sage. How­ever, the state­ments raised with this paste­board, and the act of putting it up with­out our per­mis­sion, are not con­doned by Noc­turne.” says Cory. [Dis­claimer: Cory also serves as The Coast’s events per­son.]

This year, the Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­tural Col­lec­tive part­nered with Noc­turne for the fes­ti­val’s 2018 theme, “No­madic Rec­i­proc­ity,” which di­rectly ad­dresses John A. MacDon­ald and other col­o­niz­ers.

The theme en­cour­ages artists and ob­servers to “un­pack and re­flect on our un­der­stand­ings of our his­tory and the long-last­ing im­pacts of col­o­niza­tion as well as our re­cip­ro­cal de­pen­dence on the land that we stand on, ben­e­fit from and must pro­tect for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Later in the evening on Satur­day, the cutout was tam­pered with and the phrases changed to be in op­po­si­tion to John A. MacDon­ald. ‘I’m #okay with John A.’ was al­tered to ‘I am not #okay with John A,’ while ‘truth’ was crossed out and ‘hate’ was added, along with tears to MacDon­ald’s face.

At ap­prox­i­mately 8:43pm, a Noc­turne at­tendee who re­fused to give his name at­tempted to tear down this newly al­tered ex­hibit. He took is­sue with the van­dal­ized ver­sion of the cutout, stat­ing that the van- dal­iza­tion of John A. MacDon­ald’s face was ‘un­pa­tri­otic.’

“We can’t just walk by and watch some­one bad-mouthing our cul­ture,” he said.

Be­fore the ex­hibit could be de­stroyed, by­stander Scott Dome­nie stepped in to de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion. Dome­nie strongly dis­agreed with the mes­sage of the orig­i­nal ver­sion, but he be­lieved that rip­ping the ex­hibit down would not be a con­struc­tive re­sponse to it.

“Are we sup­posed to be­lieve that truth means deny­ing the truth of res­i­den­tial schools? Deny­ing the truth of In­dige­nous geno­cide?” Dome­nie asked.

The legacy of Canada’s first prime min­is­ter has in­creas­ingly been re­ex­am­ined for the cul­tural geno­cide he cham­pi­oned against First Na­tions, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem and a pol­icy of star­va­tion to force In­dige­nous peo­ples onto re­serves.

Those ef­forts have been met with op­po­si­tion from those in sup­port of Canada’s found­ing colo­nial lead­ers. Groups such as the Proud Boys pre­vi­ously in­ter­rupted a planned In­dige­nous protest on Canada Day, and other res­i­dents have voiced their op­po­si­tion to city hall’s re­moval of the Ed­ward Cornwallis statue this past Jan­uary.


The un­al­tered dis­play as it orig­i­nally ap­peared on the Hal­i­fax Water­front.

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