Presented as a visual installation with a sit-down audioshow component and short Q&A session to conclude, CelebrateHer is a feminist art project – inspired by interviews with 12 inspiring, publicly nominated women – that explores gender expectations, everyday activism and the complexities of allyship. The goal? “To uplift the stories of a diverse group of badass women.”
Artist Aquil Virani’s encounters with these 12 women included an audio interview, a short video shoot, and a photography session to create reference images for the portraits. The recordings were then transcribed by playwright Erin Lindsay who integrated the chorus of voices into a curated collection of perspectives on emergent themes. Visitors are invited to listen to these thoughts as they investigate the painted portraits.
“My convictions as a feminist stem from my personal relationships with women like my single-parent mother and more abstract values like equality, social justice, and human rights,” Virani says. “I am deeply invested in using my artistic efforts to tangibly and meaningfully impact social change; that means confronting the historical depiction of women by men as passive, sexual objects by painting strong, dignified subjects with agency and value.”
Their names – Zébida Bendjeddou, Clare Byarugaba, Dorothy Dixon Williams, Shweta Khare, Kama La Mackerel, Kathy Malas, Bochra Manai, Natalie Ramsay, Romita Sur, Naomi Tatty, Joannie Verreault, Rachel Zellars.
Awarded as the “Artist For Peace 2018” by the Quebec-based artist collective “Les artistes pour la paix,” Aquil Virani is a visual artist who integrates public participation into his socially-conscious art projects. For him, every decision is political because it affects the ongoing power dynamics, struggles and injustices in the world – and his art is no exception. As Éric Clément observed in his article for La Presse, “Aquil Virani could not be more Canadian.” It is his culturally diverse upbringing that informs his focus on inclusion, participation and social issues. He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia to two immigrant parents; his Catholic mother was an early childhood educator from northern France and his Muslim father was a chartered accountant of Indian descent, originally born in Tanzania in East Africa. Explore more of his work here on his website.
See a few photos of the creation process as well as the installation at Morrice Hall here.