Zainub Verjee, currently the Executive Director of Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto, is an accomplished leader in the art and culture sector and over four decades has shaped culture policy at all levels of governments and contributed to building of cultural institutions and organizations in Canada and internationally.

Newly politicized at Simon Fraser University in the mid-70s, fully engaged with Feminist Labour history as well as Artists-run-centres, the setback of the Applebaum-Hébert Cultural Review Committee Report (1982) and second wave of feminism was seized upon by Zainub to put the agenda of women and race on the table. The following two decades saw major cultural policy work in Canada, and it is appropriate to mention Zainub's central role in making the case of racial equity right at the centre of this development. She further connected these issues with trade through her work with the International Network for Cultural Diversity included promulgating the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted in 2005. Going beyond her call of duty, she selflessly enabled forming alliances, articulating new aesthetics and embedding issue of racial equity firmly into the evolving discourse. She defies an easy classification: a community organizer; artist and critic; prolific writer and speaker; institution builder; reformer and change agent; educator and mentor; and, public policy and legislation developer.

A trailblazer, she was directly instrumental in the founding of these cultural institutions (In Visible Colours; B.C.Arts Council; Vancouver Asian Heritage Month; Racial Equity Office in Canada Council for the Arts) and developed policy initiatives, advanced vital interests of artists, and created spaces and access for artists across different disciplines in Canada.

Zainub has served as a public servant over decades of an effective role on all sides of the table. At City of Mississauga, her work as the inaugural Director led to setting up of its Culture Division and the first Culture Master Plan. A decade prior to this, she was engaged by Gordon Campbell, Canadian diplomat and the 35th Mayor of Vancouver on his landmark Vancouver Arts Initiative as part of Cultural Planning for Vancouver.

As Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Canadian Heritage and Program Officer at the Canada Council for the Arts, she served on cross-sectoral portfolios. Almost for a decade, she was the Executive Director of Western Front. Prior to that she Co-Directed/Founded InVisible Colours, a widely and critically recognized and impactful International film and video festival of its kind in Vancouver and in Canada.

Zainub is an accomplished writer, critic, curator, contemporary artist and public intellectual. At the forefront of the two decades of cultural politics of the 1980s and 1990s in Canada, Zainub was the co-founder and Festival director of the critically acclaimed In Visible Colours: An International Film/Video Festival & Symposium for Third World Women and Women of Colour (1988-90). She was co-guest editor of The Capilano Review and has published in numerous academic, cultural and critical fora including, Leonardo Journal (MIT), Kinesis, Parallelogram, Fuse, Horizon, Canadian Art Magazine, Journal of Art and the Public Sphere etc. She is invited to speak nationally and internationally, on cultural policy, contemporary art and cultural diplomacy.

Fueled by passion, vision, and a staunch conviction about art as public good, she is a mentor and role model for generations. In the wake of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, the federal government attempted to reach out to citizens by means of a public commission of inquiry. Known as Spicer Commission, she was appointed as the Official Moderator for Citizen's Forum for Canada Future (1991). Among many appointments to Boards, she is proud of her work at the B.C. Arts Board that led to the legislation B.C.Arts Act and the formation of the institution B.C. Arts Council. Among others, currently she sits on the Advisory Board of ArtsBuild Ontario and is the Chairperson of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre. She was invited as an expert for the Opening and Closing ceremonies of Vancouver Olympics 2010.

Her art work has been shown at the Venice Biennale, Museum of Modern Art, NY, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland US, and resides in private and public collections (Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada).


Zainub Verjee: Overview of Art as Social Practice, 2019

Zainub Verjee: Arts and Systemic Racism
The Georgia Straight Can the arts world fight systemic racism in a real way instead of resorting to tokenism?.

Zainub Verjee: COVID crisis and Massey Report
The Georgia Straight Will the COVID-19 crisis prod us to truly embrace a Canadian culture that gives agency to artists?.

Zainub Verjee: COVID crisis and art labour
The Georgia Straight COVID-19 crisis has exposed hypocrisy about artists and their labour.

Zainub Verjee: An inquiry into the making of Bent, 1981
PDF An inquiry into the making of Bent.


The Canada Council for the Arts Announces the 2020 Winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Ottawa, February 19, 2020 – The Canada Council for the Arts today revealed the winners of the 2020 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts (GGArts). This year, seven artists and one arts professional are being honoured in recognition of their exceptional careers and their remarkable contributions to the visual arts, media arts and fine craft.

A peer committee selected the winners, who will each receive a $25,000 prize and a special-edition bronze medallion in recognition of their excellent work. The winners’ works will also be displayed at the Art Gallery of Alberta, in Edmonton, in summer 2020. What’s more, original short films featuring each of the artists have been created in their honour.

This year, the Canada Council for the Arts is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. Over the last two decades, a total of 170 contemporary visual and media artists, as well as arts professionals, have been recognized for their excellence.

Outstanding Contribution Award
Zainub Verjee, Cultural Administrator, Arts Advocate, Art Critic, Art Centre/Gallery Director, Artist (Mississauga, Ontario)
“Through her art practice, critical writings, distribution activities, programming, policy work and leadership, she has taken bold and challenging positions on questions of diversity, access, technology and artist's rights.” — Niranjan Rajah, Assistant Professor, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Artist, Theorist, Curator (nominator)

For the complete announcement and list of winners, visit Canada Council 2020 Governor General's Awards Winners


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