Black art, artists and audiences take centre stage at the NAC this month and year-round


January 30, 2023 – OTTAWA (Canada) – The National Arts Centre (NAC) is committed to shape a more diverse and equitable future for the performing arts in Canada, creating a welcoming and respectful space for everyone, and strengthening relationships with historically underserved artists and audiences.

Every February, events are held across the country to celebrate the legacy of Black Canadians with Black History Month. The NAC is proud to mark Black History Month with talented Black artists on all of its stages and in its public spaces.

From the NAC Orchestra to Popular Music and Variety to Dance to English and French Theatre, every discipline has artistic treasures to share. Cabaret noir, Is God Is, Alex Cuba, Reggae Roots, Waahli, and Angelique Francis are only a few of the shows and artists on the NAC playbill in February.

In 2021, NAC English Theatre department began a co-curating relationship with Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) from Montreal so that half of the NAC ET season would be programmed by BTW. This co-curation approach led to various strategies to connect with current and new audiences, and in particular Black communities from the National Capital Region. On February 17, the performance of Is God Is has been designated a Black Out night, an open invitation to Black theatregoers so they can experience the energy of the NAC with a shared sense of belonging and passion. Everyone is welcome at all our shows.



To complement the eclectic events at the heart of its programming, the NAC is proud to display the bright colours of the work of Wakefield visual artist Jimmy Baptiste on the Kipnes Lantern throughout the month of February. Onah, his Afrofuturist piece was commissioned by the NAC specifically for Black History Month. Take a moment to admire it as you enter the building to attend one of our many performances.



Cabaret Noir - Happening and plea for recognition

Solo choreographer Mélanie Demers, accompanied by a team of sublime creator–performers, travelled up the cultural river of what she calls her “negritude” to confront the works, artifacts and stereotypes that have shaped her identity. In Cabaret Noir, the multidisciplinary artist delivers the result of her quest in a great melting pot of ideas that takes the form of a glorious interdisciplinary happening.  

February 2-4 | Azrieli Studio – presented by French Theatre


Waahli is a Montreal artist of Haitian descent. His music education benefited from a father who was a seasoned guitarist, but also from the strong influences of traditional Haitian musicians like Tabou Combo, Coupé Chloé, Marie, Carole. He taught himself to play the guitar after discovering hip-hop, the kind of music that he felt suited him best.  

February 2 | Fourth Stage – presented by Popular Music and Variety

Alex Cuba 

Alex Cuba is a Latin Grammy/Juno winner, singer-songwriter who is not tied to tradition; Alex has a vast musical vision. His sugarcane-sweet melodies, pop-soul hooks and powerful guitar riffs, relinquish a conventional stereotype that exemplifies much of the Latin music landscape. His musical evolution for years was all about searching for the simplicity and soul in Cuban music. 

February 4 | Théâtre Babs Asper Theatre – presented by Popular Music and Variety

Is God Is  

Twin sisters Anaia and Racine are on a quest for peace. And they are willing to kill for it. She is a God to her twins, Anaia and Racine — a god of vengeance. And She will only be satisfied when their daddy is very, very dead. The sisters are sent on a quest from the South to a sleepy California desert city to fulfill their mother’s command. And the secrets that set fire to their family ties are revealed, allowing us to understand and experience satisfaction through sacrifice, and relief through revenge. Is God Is is a dark, award-winning tragicomedy that channels Tarantino as much as Sophocles, driven by our sweet, spiteful heroines who are both victims, and vigilantes. 
 February 9 – 18 | Babs Asper Theatre – presented by English Theatre & Black Theatre Workshop

Is God Is Black Out Night 

On February 17, the evening’s performance of Is God Is is an open invitation to Black audiences to experience and enjoy a performance in the Babs Asper Theatre with their communities. 

February 17 | Babs Asper Theatre – presented by English Theatre and Black Theatre Workshop

Carine au Micro 

Carine au Micro is an African artist (Benin). Her interest in music started at a very young age under the influence of her parents, and most especially her mother. In 2004, when Carine moved to Quebec for her university studies, she joined the Imani Gospel Singers Choir and was able to truly experience Montreal’s music scene. However, it wasn’t until she met artists like Lorraine Klassen, Noel Mpiaza and David Mobio, among others, that she really found her feet in the music world. 

February 10 | Fourth Stage – presented by Popular Music and Variety

James Baley

Toronto’s James Baley is a Juno-winning music creator and multi-disciplinary artist whose radiant energy continues to establish him as a distinctive and magnetizing performer. Sharing compelling stories through his vulnerable lyrics, James combines his R&B, gospel, and electronic influences to create soulful reflections and exuberant dance tracks for the church, club and vogue ballroom. Known in the ballroom community as Songbird Miyake-Mugler, James takes inspiration from his alternative aesthetic and joy of movement. 

February 11 | Fourth Stage – presented by Popular Music and Variety

Reggae Roots 

Hailed as reggae-roots royalty, Jamaican-born Halifax-based vocalist Jah’Mila finds her groove with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in a program that reflects on the social, cultural, and spiritual importance of the magical musical genre that has shaped Jamaica and touched the world.   

February 23-25 | Southam Hall – presented by NAC Orchestra

Celebrate Africa 

Feel the energy when Masabo hits the stage! These hereditary West African master musicians and dancers fill the air with soaring melodies and driving rhythms as the ancient arts of West Africa are brought to life. This performance is a feast of traditional songs, stories, dance and stunning musicianship.  

February 12 | Azrieli Studio – presented by NAC Orchestra

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble 

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has toured internationally, as well as recorded enumerable celebrated projects over the last 45 years. The current line up, featuring Corey Wilkes/trumpet, Alex Harding/ baritone sax, and the bands founder, Dr. Kahil El’Zabar/multipercussion/ composition, is guaranteed to inspire audiences. The EHE is a must-see ensemble, who’s truly making history with each performance! They are 21st century Griot, making Great Black Music for the Mind, Body, and Spirit! 

February 15 | Peter Herrndorf Place – presented by Public Spaces (free)

Angelique Francis 

A musical familyThere’s no one like Angelique Francis to warm our hearts in winter. Accompanied by her double bass and her band, this amazingly talented musician lights up the stage with her electrifying New Orleans-style performances. 

February 18 | Fourth Stage – presented by Popular Music and Variety

Ages 5 + (bilingual)

The Underground Comedy Railroad 

The Underground Comedy Railroad tours across Canada every year to celebrate Black History Month and is known for being the first ever all black comedy tour in the country. The tour travels from Halifax to B.C. bringing diverse perspectives to regions across the country who have never experienced this kind of unique cultural event. The Underground Comedy Railroad Tour was created by Rodney Ramsey and Daniel Woodrow in 2012 to create opportunities and introduce the voices.  

February 20 | Fourth Stage – Community programming



While the NAC’s mission is to showcase talented artists from all backgrounds, here’s a list of some upcoming events featuring Black artists. 

The full program is available on our website at https://nac-cna.ca/en/series/bhm

Internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Gregory Maqoma presents Broken Chord on March 1 and 2; Afro house band OK Naledi takes the stage on March 4; on March 16, in a highly anticipated Canadian premiere, Chineke! performs with acclaimed Canadian composer and pianist Stewart Goodyear in Callaloo – A Caribbean Suite for Piano and Orchestra. On March 17 and 18, choreographer and dancer Rodhnie Désir will perform her award-winning documentary choreography BOW’T TRAIL Rétrospeck.

In April, resident chef La-toya Fagon will add her special touch to the menu at 1 Elgin, and in May, choreographer Dada Masilo explores her roots in Le Sacrifice.



Programming at the National Arts Centre is made possible through the support of many generous individuals and organizations from across the country. The NAC Foundation would like to thank Mohammad & Najla Al Zaibak (Bay Tree Foundation), Gail Asper, O.C., O.M., LL.D. & Michael Paterson, The Azrieli Foundation, BMO Financial Group, Bonnie & John Buhler, Adrian Burns, LL.D. & Gregory Kane, Q.C., Canadian North, The Crabtree Foundation, Margaret Fountain, C.M., DFA (h) & David Fountain, C.M., Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LLD (hc), Susan Glass, C.M. & Arni Thorsteinson, O.M., Donald K. Johnson O.C., Dr. Dianne Kipnes, C.M. & Mr. Irving Kipnes, C.M., The Leacross Foundation, Mark Motors Group, Meta, The Janice & Earle O’Born Fund for Artistic Excellence, Power Corporation of Canada, the RBC Foundation, RBC Royal Bank, Rogers Communications, Dasha Shenkman, OBE, Hon RCM, The Slaight Family Foundation, TD Bank Group, The Vered Family, and two Anonymous Donors. Thank you also to our many other supporters across the country.


The National Arts Centre is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams — the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre in collaboration with Black Theatre Workshop, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety — and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe.  




Anicée Lejeune
Communications Strategist
Programs and Special Projects 
National Arts Centre

Annabelle Cloutier
Executive Director
Strategy and Communications
National Arts Centre

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