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Ryerson Artspace | ‘Dear Nani’ by Zinnia Naqvi

RECEPTION: Friday, July 7th, 2017 8 – 10 pm, Artist Talk with Eduardo Velázquez 6 – 8 pm
EXHIBITION RUN: Thursday, July 6th, 2017 – Sunday, July 30th, 2017 2017.

Dear Nani is a project that addresses issues of gender performance and colonial mimicry through looking at the family archive. The photographs included in this project are of my maternal grandmother, Rhubab Tapal, or Nani. In them she is performing the act of cross-dressing by wearing several different outfits that belong to her husband. They were taken on her honeymoon after the couple was newly married in Quetta and Karachi Pakistan, in the year 1948. My grandfather or Nana, Gulam Abbas Tapal is the photographer and presumed director of the photo session.Homi K. Bhabha states in his essay Of Mimicry and Man, “colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite.[1]” My grandparents fit into a class of Indians, who at that time that were educated under British rule. The British spent a large amount of time and resources to educate Indian men, to create a class of men that were Indian in blood but British in character. These images were taken only a single year after the partition of Indian and Pakistan, at a time when the two nations had been recently wounded and struggling to find peace and order. As Nani holds a Children’s Encyclopedia produced for subjects of the British colonies, she is performing not only the role of man, but also an Indian man performing the role of a British man.

As I try to understand these images I also put myself into the unanswered questions. I try on the role of my Nani as well as some of the other contributors to the images, such as the unknown children in the background. The fictional dialogue between Nani and I attempts to unpack some of the questions surrounding these images while also asking the viewer to revisit their own reading.

[1] Homi K. Bhabha, “Chapter 4, Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalance of Colonial Discourse” The Location of Culture. (Routledge: London and New York, 1994) pp. 125


Zinnia Naqvi is a visual artist based in Toronto and Montreal. Her work uses a combination of photography, video, writings, archival footage and installation. Naqvi’s practice often questions the relationship between authenticity and narrative, while dealing with larger themes of post-colonialism, cultural translation, language, and gender.

Naqvi received a BFA in Photography from Ryerson University, and is currently an MFA Candidate in Studio Arts from Concordia University. Her work has shown in Toronto at the Ryerson Image Centre, Gallery 44, the Koffler Gallery and in Montreal at Articule and the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery. Her work has been shown internationally at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Uppsala International Short Film Festival and the International Institute of Contemporary Art and Theory in Mangalia, Romania.


Artist Talk with Eduardo Velázquez

Accompanying this exhibition will be an artist talk between Zinnia Naqvi and Brooklyn based artist Eduardo Velázquez. Velázquez practice aims to deconstruct established identities and gender roles through the mediums of paint, photography, body and video. The two artists will discuss the use of performance and reenactment in their work, and how this contributes to re-defining personal colonial histories. They will discuss their challenges with confronting established narratives associated with diasporic families and including their own bodies within these personal spaces. The talk will be moderated by artist and cultural worker Beau Gomez.

Dominican-American artist Eduardo Velázquez (b. Eduardo Shlomo Velázquez; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a painter, performance artist and filmmaker whose work deconstructs established identities and gender roles through the medium of paint, photography, body and video. He utilizes painting and performance as tools to investigate how desire becomes manifest in one’s body, identity, and personal postcolonial history. Influenced by the tradition of camp imagery, Velázquez uses intentional homoeroticism to present an intimate portrait of gender performance. He contributes to different queer activist movements in New York City, and has spoken at Jacob Riis Foundation, El Museo del Barrio, China Central Academy of Fine Arts and McGill University. His first publicly released film was the 2015 mumblecore short GUAO. The short film is an international co-production led by Eduardo Velázquez’s Dominican company Verandi Films. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Beau Gomez is a photo-based artist living in Toronto, Canada. He holds a BFA in Photography from Ryerson University and in Art History, Theory and Criticism from Paris College of Art, Paris, France. His projects are mainly driven by a curiosity in understanding and subsequently re-envisioning social and cultural tropes of manhood, homosociality and principles of intimacy.

His work has been published by The Royal Ontario Museum, Magenta Foundation and exhibited in the Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Love Art Fair and most recently at Nuit Rose Festival, in Toronto. He also has shown in Galerie Plateforme and Bibliothèque Château d’Eau, and has spoken at the Terra Foundation of American Art and La Gaîté Lyrique’s Film and Music Experience Festival in Paris. He is currently the Head of Communications at Workman Arts, a renowned arts and mental health organization in Toronto.