In Ghent, Belgium, an alternative representation of Saint Nicholas dubbed 'Queen Nikolah' has sparked controversy, leading to the cancellation of an event featuring the artist, despite a keen anticipation by over 200 people. The character, brought to life by Laura Nsengiyumva, seeks to challenge the conventional cultural and gender norms, offering a fresh perspective on a revered tradition.
Not a Replacement, but a Companion
The city of Ghent has clarified that the introduction of 'Queen Nikolah' was not intended to replace the traditional Saint Nicholas, who made his customary visit to the city on November 19. However, the event at Vooruit, a cultural center in Ghent, confirmed that its 'Queen Nikkolah' event slated for December 6 would go ahead as planned.
Franky Devos, the coordinator of Vooruit, believes that the city's decision to cancel was precipitous, stating that the event is a celebration of diversity which can coexist with traditional festivities. Despite some negative reactions questioning the inclusion of a black Saint Nicholas, a subsequent performance by the artist is scheduled for December 9 at Zinnema in Anderlecht.
Addressing Racialized Traditions
Laura Nsengiyumva has previously expressed her unease with the racialized 'Pere Fouettard' figure from her childhood and the 'Zwarte Piet' character in the Netherlands. The advent of 'Queen Nikolah' is seen as a significant move towards addressing such racialized traditions and fostering an inclusive festive atmosphere.