WHO IS SHE?

V.T. Nayani (pron. 9'knee) is an artist, producer and consultant, who has been working in the creative world for almost 15 years. Starting off as a writer and dancer, Nayani trained in the classical dance form of Bharathanatyam. She then moved into theatre, as both a performer and writer, working both on and off stage. Eventually, her tenderness for storytelling and social justice led to her current focus as both an arts advocate and programmer, and a director and writer dedicated to stories for the screen. She obtained her Bachelor of Journalism (Radio & Television) from Ryerson University, and her M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from York University, focused on cultural production, diaspora, and gender & feminist studies. Her first feature documentary Shadeism: Digging Deeper (2015) had its World Premiere at the 2015 Zanzibar International Film Festival, where it received a Special Jury Recognition. Nayani is an alumni of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Workshop for Diverse Creators, the HotDocs Festival's Doc Accelerator Program, and the 2017 ReelWorld Film Festival's Emerging 20 Program. She is a recipient of the 2017 UN Women Yvonne M. Hebert Award, after being nominated through the Association for Wome's Rights in Development. This award is given to filmmakers and other media makers, who actively work towards women's empowerment and gender equity through their chosen creative medium. As part of this honour, she was invited to attend the 61st Commission on the Status of Women at UN Headquarters in New York City, where she facilitated a workshop for youth attendees on "Film and Gender Equality", and co-produced a short film with UN Women and AWID, which was screened at the gathering alongside the films of her fellow honourees. In 2018, Nayani's first feature drama film, THIS PLACE, was selected as a recipient of Telefilm Canada's inaugural Talent to Watch Program. Nayani is also a Co-Founder and Executive at  43°North Productions, a production company that she runs with her producing partners Camaro West and Simone Ince. Through their work together, they are focused on centering stories from the margins, featuring Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour. On a more serious note, she is an awkward girl with a strange laugh, and her head is almost always in the clouds. Clearly, she belongs to Ravenclaw House (for all you fellow #Potterheads). Nayani feels blessed to work at the intersection of arts and advocacy, working collectively with elders, peers, and emerging artists alike, to create and share work that seeks to say something, and engage audiences both aesthetically and consciously. Above all, she believes in love and magic.

WHY DOES SHE DO WHAT SHE DOES?

I am a daughter of the Tamil diaspora. As a daughter of two former refugees, I've all-ways sought refuge in storytelling. My parents were my first introduction to stories, both of them carrying tales of a homeland lost to us but still in their hearts. Through them, and other elders in my life, I was taught to value storytelling and the power it has to preserve, to honour, to ignite, to disrupt, and to remind the world that we too are here, navigating this wide world and leaving our mark in immeasurable ways. My focus through my work is to continue a centuries-old tradition of preservation, and sharing both imagined and lived narratives birthed out of my multiple communities. I hope to contribute to the growing catalogue of creative work globally, which speaks to varied and nuanced life experiences, especially among Black, Indigenous, and other folks of colour. It is not wrong to say that our voices often live on the fringes; this is even more so the case for self-identified womxn and non-binary people from our communities. As a Tamil feminist, actively attempting to work through Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw's lens of intersectionality, I am focused on creating affecting work in collaboration with other marginalized storytellers, which centres our voices and life narratives, and is a cause for conversation beyond the art. This includes talking truth about our pasts in our own words and dreaming about our futures by way of our own imaginations. Ultimately, I hope to contribute to the inclusivity and expansion of the arts as a whole, giving a broader scope of the sacred stories BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Colour) folks have to share, and showing how diverse stories should not be othered, but instead seen as beautifully distinct and still part of an ever-unfolding whole. Stick around - it would be lovely to have you join me along this journey.


V. T. NAYANI DEEPLY APPRECIATES THE ONGOING SUPPORT OF THE ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL & CANADA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS. 

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