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Q&A with filmmaker-artist Nayani Thiyagarajah

30 November 2011 3 Comments

Nayani Thiyagarajah

By Samuel Getachew

Nayani Vathsaladevi-Thiyagarajah is an up and coming filmmaker of important documentaries such as Shadeism – a must watch short film that explores the issue of skin colour and discrimination within the African, Caribbean, and South Asian diasporas. The Ryerson University graduate is also an organizer and participant of T – DOT Renaissance – a Toronto event that found its inspiration “by memories and stories of the Harlem Renaissance, a time when African American artists were exploring, engaging, and collaborating to create a space they could define as their own artistic identity.”

Sway caught up with the eloquent activist as she made her way back from attending Manifesto|Jamaica, in the Caribbean nation, as she looks ahead to the much anticipated installment of the T – DOT Renaissance that will be hosted in Toronto this weekend.

Tell us about T-Dot Renaissance.

T-Dot Renaissance was founded by educator, playwright, and actor Amanda Parris. It began as a series of artistic play dates, giving space for various artists to come together, take a break from their day-to-day, and engage in collective art creation! Each session was facilitated by different artists, and allowed us to explore various forms of art, often multiple in one session. For artists who are on a daily grind, you can imagine how freeing this felt to just come together and create for fun!

This past July was when we began preparations for our first-ever T-Dot Renaissance Multi-Arts Installation titled ‘Diasporic Journeys’. Through months of collective and individual creation, we have curated a multi-dimensional walk-through installation. I should say it is more of an experience than an installation really; it takes visitors on their own journey, as they are guided through an exploration of the multiple journeys that our collective has had courage to document and share with them.

T-Dot Renaissance is expected to be “a movement, a wave of cultural and artistic collaborations for this generation of emerging artists”. Please explain.

T-Dot Renaissance is a movement in that it is a collective coming together of diverse peoples, seeking to challenge and stir through our shared work. While we are each emerging artists, with our own stories to share, T-Dot Renaissance represents the strength of the collective; it will show you what can truly happen when artists combine their efforts and work in unity with each other.

In this group, we are not just witnessing the collaboration of one or two artists, or one or two forms of art; we are experiencing and sharing what happens when multiple artists make the brave decision to weave their personal and familial narratives with those of others, and openly share them with strangers and loved ones alike.

I am aware that you will be one of the performers at the event. What would be your contribution?

I am one of over 16 participating members, who will be sharing work through this installation. My contribution will be primarily through movement and dance, with some of my poetry also being shared. My dance piece will be done in collaboration with a piece by Kayla Carter, where we explore our own diasporic journeys through dance forms connected to our heritage. My own piece is rooted in the South Indian bharatanatyam style of dance, but will also incorporate contemporary styles of movement. It explores the theme of self-love, as well as the ever-evolving exploration and redefinition of identity, as it relates to my own experience as a second-generation Tamil womyn, who was born and raised in Canada.

What will some of the highlights be for this year?

I sincerely cannot pick a few highlights. I feel that the whole installation is a journey that is a sum of its parts; each piece is an innate and necessary part of the experience, similar to the way each moment is vital to the next in our personal journeys as human beings.

According to the website, the event aims to “bring together film, theatre, sculpture, photography, paint and dance and engage each of these art forms at their own pace.” How would this be done?

As one walks through the installation, they will understand exactly what this means. It is hard to describe the experience without giving away all the details. And in all honesty, it is hard to describe it, period. It is something that one must see, hear, touch, feel and interact with personally.

We’ve created a journey for guests to embark on, and it is in their time spent with us that they will be able to engage with what we have shared, at their own pace, in their own way. I truly believe each visitor’s experience will be their own, as they choose to take in our offerings in whichever way feels innate to them.

Where could one get more info on the event?

For full info on our collective and the upcoming T-Dot Renaissance you can visit our website: www.tdotrenaissance.squarespace.com. Here, you can also read blog entries written by each of our artists, and find more info about them and their individual work.

For more info on the event, you can visit our Facebook Event Page: “T-Dot Renaissance Multi-Arts Installation: Diasporic Journeys”.

The installation takes place this weekend, December 3rd – 4th at Loft404 – 263 Adelaide Street. All guests are guided are taken on a guided tour of the installation, which takes place each hour between 3-7pm. Guests must pre-register for a tour. Tickets are available online for $15

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  • Janet said:

    while this is a nice story, I’m a bit confused as to why an African Canadian magazine is profiling someone who is clearly not African Canadian?

  • swaymag (author) said:

    Hi Janet,

    At Sway, we choose to highlight Canadians, those of African descent and not, who contribute to and are involved in the African Canadian community at large. We believe that Nayani Thiyagarajah is one of those individuals.


  • Zia said:

    I personally know Nayani & she is a community-oriented angel sent from above. She’s committed to issues that affect all racialized individuals. Janet, our community extends beyond our race/cultures.

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