Zainub Verjee: Home on the Web


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 Applebert 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).