30 Years of Racialized Curating: A Discussion with SAVAC’s Past Artistic Directors

Panel Discussion: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Collection & Annual General Meeting

Saturday 25 February 2023, 12:00pm-4:00pm EST
Virtual Event – Zoom

Join us for a very special afternoon to celebrate South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC). We are hosting a momentous panel discussion with our past Artistic Directors followed by our Annual General Meeting and Board election.

If you are interested in attending, please RVSP to board@savac.net and you will be sent the zoom link. The event will be recorded.

Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Collection
A panel discussion

Featuring: Rachel Kalpana James, Shelly Bahl, Haema Sivanesan, Sharlene Bamboat, Nahed Mansour and Toleen Touq

Liquid water evaporates into vapour, condenses to form clouds, and precipitates back to earth to be collected in our water bodies. Water moves from one reservoir to another, from river to ocean, from the ocean to the atmosphere. This endless cycle is an apt metaphor for the programming practices of curators of colour who work in various spheres with hopes of affecting lasting change in other parts of the arts ecosystem.

As Vijay Prashad noted, “Multiculturalism emerged as the liberal doctrine designed to undercut the radicalism of anti-racism. Instead of anti-racism, we are fed a diet of cultural pluralism and ethnic diversity. The history of oppression and the fact of exploitation are shunted aside in favour of a celebration of difference and of the experiences of individuals who can narrate their ethnicity for the consumption of others.”

For decades, staff at SAVAC have been working under these conditions to intervene and transform the art world to create a more hospitable climate for artists of colour. Join our past artistic directors Rachel Kalpana James, Shelly Bahl, Haema Sivanesan, Sharlene Bamboat, Nahed Mansour and Toleen Touq to learn how they adapted their practices to resist the demands of the status quo while building on the achievements of their creative contemporaries and elders. These practitioners will share their perspectives on the needs of diasporic artists, the ways in which diversity, equity, and inclusion policies have affected programming over the course of the last 30 years, and how lessons from the past can help sustain the work still to be done.


Rachel Kalpana James and Shelly Bahl on 30 years of identity-based arts organizing


Haema Sivanesan, Sharlene Bamboat, Nahed Mansour and Toleen Touq in conversation on curating contemporary art before and after equity, diversity and inclusion mandates


The Present of SAVAC- presentations by Indu Vashist and Abedar Kamgari

Board elections

Participant Biographies

Image credit: Gitanjali Kolanad at SAVAC’s Exotica-Erotica Fundraiser, 2001, 401 Richmond, Toronto.

SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) is a non-profit, artist-run centre in Canada dedicated to increasing the visibility of culturally diverse artists by curating and exhibiting their work, providing mentorship, facilitating professional development and creating a community for our artists. SAVAC was founded to be an organization staffed by people of colour, committed to support the work of artists of colour. We promote self-representation by developing artistic practice that is often informed by cultural identity through a range of mediums, aesthetics, forms, and techniques.

We support work that (in)directly addresses the ways histories of people of colour are represented alongside the story of ongoing colonialism on Turtle Island and post-colonial histories of the global south.

401 Richmond Street West, Suite 450
Toronto, ON M5V 3A8, Canada
board@savac.net | 416-542-1661

Hours: By appointment only
Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm

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This event is in partnership with OCAD University and funded by SSHRC.

SAVAC is funded by Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council.