"> A picture of student work displayed in the Gallery 1265 exhibit, 'HOME.'
'HOME' is a student exhibit that reflects on each artist's interpretation of home, and how it relates to topics such as colonialism, race, racism, multiculturalism, and migration. Pictured is an artistic collage by Sagal Shuriye and Sumia Ali. (Photo by Raquel Russell)
Thursday, January 11 - 2018
Raquel A. Russell

What is home? Over thirty University of Toronto Scarborough undergraduate students have responded to that question through HOME an exhibit on display at Gallery 1265.

“We all think about home in very different ways,” says Girish Daswani, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the exhibit. “No two people have the same answer.”  

The exhibit, which runs from Jan. 8 to Jan. 18, reflects on each artist's interpretation of home, and how it relates to topics such as colonialism, race, racism, multiculturalism, and migration by the students of the fall 2017 Anthropology of Transnationalism (ANTC34H3) course. The closing reception is Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The exhibit, which runs from Jan. 8 to Jan. 18, reflects on each artist's interpretation of home, and how it relates to topics such as colonialism, race, racism, multiculturalism, and migration by the students of the fall 2017 Anthropology of Transnationalism (ANTC34H3) course.

When fifth-year International Development Studies student Sagal Shuriye first heard the question, her and collaborator Sumia Ali, a fourth-year human geography and city studies student, were unsure of where to start.

“We’ve both never seen our home, this is home, we were born here,” says Sagal who’s Somali parents immigrated from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. “We asked ourselves how we could show that we are stuck between two worlds.”

Shuriye and Ali created The Life of a Somali-Canadian Woman, described as a collage that demonstrates how the average life of a Somali woman cannot be contained within borders or maintained within the idea of what it means to be Canadian. Both Shuriye and Ali chose ANTC34H3 knowing that they would have the opportunity to produce a work that allowed them to explore personal experiences and “challenge the university community to understand the different bodies that are on campus and how we all identify home.”

“When I spent summers in Egypt and Kenya, people would tell me that I’m not Somali, but when I’m here I always have to tell people that I’m Somali, but I’m Canadian,” says Shuriye. “It’s almost like I have two homes, but both homes are kind of rejecting me.”

“When I spent summers in Egypt and Kenya, people would tell me that I’m not Somali, but when I’m here I always have to tell people that I’m Somali, but I’m Canadian,” says Shuriye. “It’s almost like I have two homes, but both homes are kind of rejecting me.”

Fifth-year IDS Co-op Student Banusha Mahendren is the artist behind Fragments of an Imaginary: Pieces of Home. The piece is Mahendren’s understanding of her Tamil identity and its Northern Sri Lankan origins as something that has changed through time and space.

Banusha Mahendren's work about her experience as a first-generation Tamil-Canadian.
Fragments of the Imaginary: Pieces of Home by Banusha Mahendren. (Photo by Raquel Russell) 

“Some of the themes I hope visitors pull out from the piece, are those relating to my identity as a first-generation Tamil-Canadian, being the daughter of Tamil refugees, having a female diasporic identity and of course, being a settler on colonial land,” says Mahendren.

“I hope visitors are able to see the ways in which these aspects of my identity complicate my sense of home both here in Canada as well as back home in Sri Lanka; and that they complicate it in similar yet distinct ways in each place.”

“Some of the themes I hope visitors pull out from the piece, are those relating to my identity as a first-generation Tamil-Canadian, being the daughter of Tamil refugees, having a female diasporic identity and of course, being a settler on colonial land,” says Mahendren.

Ali, Shuriye and Mahendren represent a portion of the many displays that are available for visitors to see in the gallery.

Daswani has taught ANTC34H3 since 2008, but the course took a turn when the exhibition was incorporated into the curriculum three years ago.

“It really went well, so I’ve kept it going,” says Daswani. The first show focused on pictures students took from their own lives to reconstruct what home means for them. The second exhibit highlighted spoken word and poetry. This year Daswani says he wanted to mix it up by showcasing art in whatever form students chose.  

The course requires students each semester to visit and review an exhibit that makes them think of home in different ways, ways that they must explore in a final paper. In fall 2017 students went to the Art Gallery of Ontario for the exhibition, Every. Now. Then: Reframing nationhood, an exhibition that was part of rethinking Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The course requires students each semester to visit and review an exhibit that makes them think of home in different ways, ways that they must explore in a final paper.

“Having gone to the exhibition allows them to think creatively about their own output at the end of the course,” says Daswani.

Throughout the course ‘what is home’ was approached through discussion about colonialism, nationalism, multiculturalism, white nationalism in Canada and what that means through food, war, conflict, refugees and conflict.

“This is also an important discussion in light of the Truth & Reconciliation committee’s outcome to thinking about what it means to live in Canada as a migrant, to live in Canada as a guest,” says Daswani.

Gallery 1265, a student-run gallery in the Meeting Place, is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be provided at HOME’s closing reception on Jan. 17.