Not a Place on the Map: The Desh Pardesh Project

From 2013 – 2017, SAVAC worked on an oral history project aimed at collecting the stories of the organizers, artists, participants and community activists behind Desh Pardesh, the groundbreaking multidisciplinary South Asian Arts Festival that operated in Toronto from 1988 to 2001. Desh was dedicated to providing a venue for underrepresented and marginalized voices within the South Asian diaspora. Programming and conversations about feminism, class, sexuality, access, disability, race, caste, imperialism, and capitalism were central to the festival’s existence.

Since its closure in 2001, the festival has become a relic for the Toronto South Asian arts community. While it has been sporadically commemorated with a few events, reflections, and critical essays over the past 15 years, there had yet to be any sustained investigation into this queer diasporic festival that took hold of the Canadian arts scene in the 1990s. In part, this is due to the lack of archival sources and their inaccessibility; as Gayathri Gopinath has argued, events such as Desh Pardesh often resist textualization because the “queer spectatorial practice and the mercurial performances and more informal forms of sociality” that occur at queer diasporic night clubs, festivals, and community events are not easily documented. Remaining traces are often found basements, buried under boxes, or in the memories of organizers and participants, spaces that are inaccessible to the wider public.

To address this archival silence, in 2013 SAVAC initiated “Not a Place on the Map: The Desh Pardesh Project” – a three-year oral history project about queer South Asian history in Toronto focused on Desh Pardesh. Hired in May 2014, the first coordinator of the project Anna Malla mobilized the festival’s networks to complete 36 oral interviews, curate an archival exhibition and facilitate intergenerational connections between artists of colour. In the final year, Sajdeep Soomal was hired to finish off the project by creating a digital exhibition of the collected material.

We are excited to launch the oral histories as a series of podcasts available on our website and the CLGA Digital Collections. The interviews give us an inside look into arts organizing in the 1990s in Canada, from uncovering the racial dynamics of the arts world to the impact of the financial crisis on arts organizing.

Thank you to all the participants, community organizers, researchers and volunteers who participated in the three-year long process and have made this project a success.


The first iteration of Desh emerged in 1987 when a group of gay South Asian men in Toronto joined together to form the organization Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto. Mandated to “educate South Asian gay men and the wider gay community about South Asian culture, as well as to forge connections amongst the South Asian community, South Asian cultural producers/artists and the gay community,” Khush started its arts programming in 1989 with SALAAM TORONTO, a one-day celebration at the 519 Community Centre that featured art, literature, and performances. With over 800 attendees, it laid the groundwork for Khalla, a three-day program of film, video, music and dance “intended to provide a forum for South Asian artists’ aiming to ‘incite dialogue […] about South Asian culture.’” Khalla was later expanded re-branded as Desh Pardesh (meaning “home away from home”).

The multi-disciplinary arts festival–dedicated to foregrounding underrepresented and marginalized voices within the South Asian diasporic community–provided left wing and queer South Asian artists and academics from across the diaspora a dynamic forum to engage questions of gender, sexuality, race, caste, and nation. An early iteration of the Desh mandate describes the organization as follows:

“Desh is lesbian and gay positive, feminist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti caste/classist. Desh exists to ensure that the voices and expressions of those constituencies in the South Asian community which are systematically silenced are provided with a community forum. In particular: independent artists, cultural producers and activists who are women, lesbians and gays, people with disabilities, working class people and seniors.

Emerging through Cold War rhetoric, the term “South Asia” gained currency in the 1980s as progressive communities in the United States adopted the term to qualify their diasporic lives. While these communities mobilized to reject the narrow nationalisms and conservative politics of mainstream South Asian diasporic organizations, the umbrella category of ”South Asian” has come with its own complexities–morphing into a contemporary racial category in North America, one that sometimes flattens rather than reveals the complex histories of the subcontinent.

For eleven years, Desh organized an annual summer conference and arts festival (film screenings, workshops, issue-driven seminars, spoken work and literary readings, music, dance and performance art pieces) as well as periodic arts development workshops, community outreach seminars, mini-festivals, art exhibits, and film retrospectives. It also served as a resource centre and referral service to various South Asian community groups and artists, cultural organizations and activists.

In the later half of the 90s, a group of visual artists who had been working together to curate the visual arts component of Desh, came together to form South Asian Visual Arts Collective (later to be named the South Asian Visual Arts Centre, or SAVAC). In 1997,  SAVAC was formally established as an artist-run centre, working in close collaboration with Desh Pardesh. In 2001, when the festival and its administrative body were closed due largely to the financial crisis, SAVAC was provincially incorporated as a non-profit organization, ensuring continuity for the Desh mandate.

Desh Pardesh under the Harris Government: Navigating Neoliberalism and the “Common Sense Revolution”

Many interviewees discuss the “Harris Years” in Ontario and their impact on arts organizing in Toronto. Harris’ provincial government, elected in 1995, changed the future direction of  the Desh Pardesh festival. Desh organizers and artists worked in conditions of growing austerity and marginalization of artist’s voices in the public sphere.

In June of 1995, the people of Ontario elected the Progressive Conservative party, also known as the Tories, into provincial government with Mike Harris seated as their head. The mission statement that accompanied Mike Harris and the Tories was a 21-page pamphlet called the Common Sense Revolution. Despite the cuts that this “revolution” brought to critical sectors like healthcare, welfare and education, the Tories were brought back for a second term in 1999. Their rise to power and their consistent hold on Ontario government is largely a function of the deficit that prior governments accumulated, and how this angered voters in higher tax brackets. 

The Common Sense Revolution focused on tax reduction to stimulate economic development. At the time that the Harris government came into office, the prior governments, that of Bob Rae (NDP, 1990-1995) and David Peterson (Liberal, 1985-1990), had accumulated a fair amount of debt for the Ontario government. This is largely because the NDP and Liberal ideology for economic development was investment in education, training and human capital. They reformed the education system, established smart infrastructure, good transportation links and centres for networking where university students may come into contact with high tech firms and other businesses. They increased the deficit in hopes of a future economic renewal. After Harris came into government they did however, face a new challenge — the federal government capped funding from the Canada Assistance Plan (1996). Each province was not to receive a block grant, and then were expected to handle other funding through municipal and provincial initiative. This added financial burdens on the provincial government, despite fewer sources of funding. 

Harris’ response to this added issue, the enormous debt at hand and the expectations of the people that elected him based on his vow to would follow through with his campaign promises, was to slash taxes, reduce government spending and overhaul the bureaucracy. This was followed by the social housing collapse, high homelessness, a collapsing transit system and welfare rollbacks. Toronto, being one of the hubs of Ontario and the most involved in the free trade market experienced the hardest hit by Harris’ reforms, but its deterioration was largely ignored by the Harris government. It was neoliberal overdrive.

Neoliberal ideology is a new form of classical liberalism, which is based on core capitalistic values. Capitalism rests on the goal of free market systems, where in capital flow controls the market without governmental interference — government involvement is to be kept as minimal as possible so that the market may work organically. The system is maintained through legal and social mechanisms that reinforce relations of domination that accompany these core goals — it is critical to maintain a superordinate to subordinate relation where in the holders of the means of production dominate the working class / producers. A legalistic mechanism during Harris’ time was the reformation of the definitions of welfare fraud. Harris passed a sweeping reform of the welfare system in 1999 that lost tens of thousands of people their welfare grants based on conviction of fraud or ineligibility (i.e. not being poor enough). This reform reinforces the neoliberal system because it keep tax money away from non-market oriented activities such as welfare, and allowed it to recirculate into the free flow of the market. Alongside the cuts to welfare, Harris also introduced mandatory work placements for welfare recipients while not accounting for the social mobility in these jobs, childcare or family structure. The arts also took huge cuts, which the Desh Pardesh festival felt between 1999-2001, on the tail end of its collapse. 

Another effect of neoliberalism, or arguably a component of it, is the proliferation of mass production under Fordist thought. Mass production is a tenet of capitalism (and hence, neoliberalism) because it creates excessive product at low cost for monetary profit, and creates  an exploitative owner-producer relationship. Harris’ commitment to being business friendly was another way of adhering to the goals of the free market. Harris made it so that the government would no longer function as an active arm in the province’s economy, as it had been under the liberals and NDP. The PC government would rather cut government spending and taxing, to allow a more conducive environment for “small business.”

Thank you to Alisha Krishna and Amal Khurram writing large parts of and helping to prepare this contextual piece.


Clarkson, Stephan. 1999. “Paradigm Shift or Political Correction? Putting Ontario’s ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in a Global Context.” Regional & Federal Studies 9(3): 81-106. 

Duchesne, Scott. 1999. “Mike is the Message: Performing the Common Sense Revolution.” Theatre Research in Canada / Recherches Théâtrales au Canada 20(1): 1-7. 

Jinkings, Isabella. 2011. “The Neoliberal State and the Penalization of Misery.” Latin American Perspectives 38(178):9-18. 

Piven, Fox Francis. 1965. “Relief, Labour and Civil Disorder.” in Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare. Vol. 3., Studies in Social Ecology and Pathology The American Studies Collection. hellehigan: Vintage Books. 

The Globe and Mail. 2009. “Mike Harris’s Legacy.” 

The Podcasts

Over the past three years, we have been interviewing the coordinators, organizers and participants behind Desh Pardesh. We are excited to launch these interviews as a podcast series through Soundcloud. Listen now.

Interview with Amita Handa

Amita Handa has a doctorate in sociology and is a community-based research consultant. She is co-host of Masala Mixx on CKLN 88.1 FM, a radio program that presents a fusion of Eastern and Western music. She is also an editor and writer for BrownSugar, a New York-based art and culture magazine for South Asian women, produced by Vinita Srivastava.

Interview with Anjula Gogia

Anjula Gogia is the events coordinator at Another Story Bookshop in Roncesvalles. She is also the former co-manager of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (1996-2006). She has worked with PEN Canada and Between the Lines Press. She has an interest in supporting and promoting writing by “diverse” voices. Anjula was involved in Desh Pardesh from 1995 for several years, selling books, as a programming committee member, and as a board member.

Interview with Anthony Mohammed

Anthony Mohamed is the Senior Specialist, Equity & Community Engagement, Quality & Performance, St. Michaels Hospital, where he has been since 1995.

Drawing from more than 30 years experience in community and social justice initiatives, Anthony has specialized skills in facilitation, mediation, policy development, project management, research and strategically applying an intersectional anti-oppression framework.

He has worked in leadership roles with groups such as the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Toronto Police Services, CUSO, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, University of Toronto and the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention. He has also worked or traveled throughout all seven continents and can communicate in English, French and Spanish.

His Masters of Environmental Studies from York University, specializing in “cross cultural community health promotion,” and Quality Improvement Fellowship from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, emphasizes his commitment to equitable care for all. He is a member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and recipient of the 2013 CASSA Excellence in Equity Award.

Interview with Arif Noorani

Arif Noorani is a media worker and cultural producer who has worked in radio, podcasting and documentary for the last 25 years. His various programs have won numerous Gold Medals at the New York Radio Festival. He was a film programmer with Inside Out from 1997-2000 and his experimental video works Puri, Frozen and video letter in The Daisy Chain Project have screened at numerous festivals around the world. He was a programmer and volunteer with Desh from 1993-1997 and co-coordinator from 1995-97. 

Interview with Cameron Bailey

Cameron Bailey is the Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival®. He is responsible for the overall vision and execution of Festival programming, as well as maintaining relationships with the Canadian and international film industries. Toronto Life has named him one of Toronto’s 50 Most Influential People four years in a row.

Born in London, Bailey grew up in England and Barbados before migrating to Canada. Before taking up his current position at TIFF, he was a Festival programmer for eleven years, and a writer and broadcaster on film. He reviewed for Toronto’s NOW Magazine, CBC Radio One and CTV’s Canada AM. He presented international cinema nightly on Showcase Television’s national programme The Showcase Revue, and has been published in The Globe and Mail, The Village Voice, CineAction!, and Screen. Cameron has curated film series for Cinematheque Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the National Film Board of Canada, and Australia’s Sydney International Film Festival.

Bailey currently sits on the Advisory Council for Western University’s School for Arts and Humanities and for Haiti’s Cine Institute film school. He is also a board member of Tourism Toronto, and he currently teaches a course in programming and curation at the University of Toronto.

Interview with Dunstan Egbert
Dunstan Egbert is a Sri Lankan born immigrant who has been living and working in Canada since 1993. Dunstan is currently working as a tax auditor for the federal government, though he remains passionate about dance and the dramatic arts.  Dunstan was involved with many different aspects of Desh Pardesh during it’s heyday, having served on the board of directors and contributing to the festival as a panel project planner,  dancer, and actor. Dunstan is currently a board member at ASAAP, and can be found volunteering his time and energy wherever his skills are needed.

Interview with Gitanjali Kolanad

Gitanjali Kolanad was involved in the practice, performance, and teaching of bharata natyam for close to forty years, performing in major cities in Europe, America and India. Gitanjali’s short story collection “Sleeping with Movie Stars” was published in January 2011 by Penguin India. She has written numerous articles on aspects of Indian dance for well-known Indian publications. She is the 2016 Singapore International Writer in Residence with NUS University Scholars Program and The Arts House. She co-founded IMPACT, which teaches and promotes Indian martial art forms. Presently she a professor at Shiv Nadar University, developing their performing arts program.

Interview with Heidi McKenzie

Heidi is a Toronto-based ceramic artist. In 2009, she left a 20-year career in arts management to apprentice in her father’s ancestral home in India. Heidi completed her Diploma at Sheridan College in 2012 and subsequently her MFA at OCADU.  In 2014/2015 the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery Shop featured Heidi’s sculpture in a solo exhibition, and she won ‘Best in Show’ at the Ontario Artists Association Biennial in 2016. Heidi has worked as an artist-in-residence in China, Indonesia, Denmark and will be in Australia in 2017. She has exhibited in biennials in Hungary and Romania, and Toronto Art Fair.

Interview with Ian Iqbal Rashid

Ian Iqbal Rashid is a writer, filmmaker and activist whose work features pioneering cultural representations of South Asian and Muslim identity.  His credits include the award-winning poetry collection Black Markets, White Boyfriends, writing on TV shows such as the BBC cult hit This Life, through to his own independent films, including the ground breaking gay Muslim comedy Touch of Pink, through to his current work creating and writing Esa Khan, a television drama series for Showtime.

Born in Dar es Salaam, and raised in Toronto, he now lives in London. Awards include The Writer’s Guild of England Television Writing Award, the Aga Khan Award for Excellence in the Arts and awards and nominations from Film Festivals around the world including Sundance and Toronto.

Interview with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled nonbinary Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan/Roma/Irish femme writer, cultural worker and healing and transformative justice organizer. The American Library Association/ Stonewall and Lambda Award winning author of Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Bodymap, Love Cake and Consensual Genocide and co-editor with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities, she is a lead artist with the disability justice performance collective Sins Invalid. She co-founded and co-directed the QTPOC performance collective Mangos With Chili from 2006-2015 and, with Gein Wong, co-founded and -directed Toronto’s Asian Arts Freedom School from 2005-2007. Her work has been widely anthologized, with recent publications in Octavia’s Brood, Glitter and Grit and The Deaf Poets Society, and she has performed on stages throughout North America, from Harvard University to QTPOC spoken word nights in abandonned Kensington Market grocery stores. Grown in the rust belt of Worcester, MA, she counts T’karonto as one of her best homes and would be nowhere without its radical South Asian, queer of color, prison justice and disability communities.

Interview with Leela Acharya

Leela is an educator and activist working with high school students in the public education system in Toronto. She is also a parent to a teen, partner to an artist and daughter to her elderly mother. Leela traverses the challenging and miraculous gift of life relentlessly seeking meaning, purpose and social change at every possible moment.

Interview with Leila Sujir

Leila Sujir is an artist and a professor at Concordia University in the Intermedia undergraduate area and graduate program of the Studio Arts Department. She is working on two new video projections, one based on the forests near Port Renfrew on the west coast of Canada, Forest!,  a video installation incorporating drawing and performance, for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and a 3D large format video projection. She is also developing a new architectural video projection that will be exhibited in England in 2018. She is the principal investigator of a three year SSHRC grant, Elastic 3D Spaces:  Bodies and Belonging (2016-2019). 

Interview with Michelle Mohabeer

Dr. Michelle Mohabeer is a Guyana born, Toronto based award winning film and media artist, painter and photographer.  Her experimental and essayist documentaries Blu In you (2008) and Coconut/Cane & Cutlass (1994), and various shorts (Echoes (2003), Tracing Soul (2000), TWO/DOH (1996), EXPOSURE (1990) and the experimental narrative Child-Play (1996) have exhibited worldwide in over 250 festivals, conferences and galleries, and collected by over 60 university libraries across the U.S, Canada, the Caribbean, and Austrialia. Current projects include: Coolitude: Queer Indo-Caribbean Diasporas, a feature essayist documentary, and the film anthology In-Between Spaces. Michelle Mohabeer teaches at York University.

Interview with Natasha Singh

Natasha is the executive director at Asha Rising, a nonprofit that provides housing for formerly trafficked women who have aged out of the sex industry. She has taught at Rutgers University, the Collegiate School for boys, and the Branson School and currently works as an educational consultant in the Bay Area. Natasha Co-Chairs the board of Center for Domestic Peace, a non-profit that mobilizes individuals and communities to end domestic violence. She is also an advisor to Freedom Fwd, an organization focused on ending child sexual exploitation in the Bay Area. A two-time winner of the Canada Council for the Arts Award for her writing, Natasha’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Cutthroat, South Asian Review, Proximity, ThreePenny Review, Crab Orchard Review, and in a number of feminist journals and anthologies.

Interview with Nitin Deckha

Nitin Deckha is an anthropologist, educator, learning professional and writer. He has published a book of short stories,  Shopping for Sabzi (2008), and a novel, The Real Estate of Things (2015). His writing has appeared in various journals and anthologies and presented at various international events over the years. Nitin has taught social science in Justice Studies programs at the University of Guelph Humber, Toronto for over a decade. In addition, he designs and delivers interactive workshops and training modules on diversity and inclusion themes that include intercultural competence and gender-intelligent leadership.

Interview with Paramjit Rai

Paramjit Rai has worked as an arts administrator, lecturer in cultural/literary studies and as social policy researcher.  Originally from  Toronto, she has lived and worked in Brighton, London, New Delhi, Beijing and the Hague. She is currently living in Ottawa. Paramjit was involved with Desh Pardesh from 1993-1995. After serving on the board and cultural programming committee in 1993, she was later hired in 1994-95 to serve as co-coordinator with Steve Pereria. She values her experience at Desh Pradesh as being seminal in helping to shape her commitment to social justice issues throughout her career.

Interview with Pamila Matharu

Pamila Matharu (1973, Birmingham, UK) is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist, educator, and cultural producer. Her practice engages close readings of gaps, omissions and fissures of the ‘other’ experience, the unexamined feminist life and the minutiae of the everyday. She received her undergraduate degrees in Visual Arts and Fine Arts Education in 2002 from York University, and has been grant recipient from the Toronto, Ontario and Canada Art Councils, awarded the Marion McMahon Award (2003 Images Festival), Best Up and Coming Toronto Film/Video Maker (2003 Inside Out Festival), and Untitled Art Awards’ Jury’s Choice Awards (2004, 2005). Upcoming 2017 projects and exhibits will take place at Gallery 44, AGO, and Art Gallery of York University.

Interview with Punam Khosla

Punam Khosla is a scholar-activist and University lecturer. Her current research theorizes the corporeal logic of everyday gendered, racialized and sexualized violence. She has worked as an educator, organizer, cultural curator, and public intellectual in academia, government, media, arts and community-based organizations. Punam was a co-founder of Desh Pardesh. During her tenure as coordinator and artistic director Desh Pardesh expanded from a fledgling initiative into a festival that became a radical showcase and meeting ground that nurtured the work of queer, feminist, and left artists, activists and academics from across Canada and the South Asian diaspora.

Interview with Rachel Kalpana James and Sheila James

Rachel Kalpana James was a Coordinator of Desh Pardesh  (1994) and a founding member and former Executive Director of SAVAC. In her art practice James re-imagines and re-presents personal/ historical/ fictional narratives to question ‘how we know’. She has exhibited her installation, bookmaking, photography, video, and performance art widely, including the AGO and ROM (Canada); Bose Pacia Gallery and DUMBO (New York), BV Bhavan and LADA (London, UK), Habitat Centre (Delhi), and Quartair (The Hague). Her work is supported by numerous grants. She participated in a Banff Residency and was invited for a lecture/exhibition tour by the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan.

Sheila James is an award winning author and videographer, produced and published playwright and has performed, composed and recorded original music for stage, screen and broadcast. Her work focuses on exploration of the “other” or “outsider” as she brings a critical anti-racist, feminist and queer perspective grounded in a commitment to social justice. Productions include: music recording-Radio K.I.D.S. (1989) performance art – Jimmy Susheel, stage plays -All Whispers / No Words (1995) and A Canadian Monsoon (1996), videos- She’s a Diva, Unmapping, Lakme Takes Flight (with Melina Young) and Orphan Dyke (with Da Choong), and screenplay, Erased. Award-winning Unmapping Desire (translated into French and German) was broadcast by ZDF. “In the Wake of Loss” published by Ronsdale Press 2009, won Honourable Mention, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award. Sheila James currently works as a Senior Strategic Advisor at the Canada Council for the Arts.

Interview with Sharon Fernandez

Sharon Fernandez is a grassroots activist and artist with over thirty years’ practical experience in helping to transform arts and cultural organizations in the public and voluntary sector.  As a result of her proactive leadership she has earned recognition locally and internationally for the sustained impacts of her institutional equity work in the integration of cultural diversity in the Arts sector.

Interview with Shelly Bahl

Shelly Bahl is a visual and media artist born in Benares, India, raised in Toronto and currently based in New York City. She received her B.F.A. (Visual Art and Art History) from York University, Toronto and her M.A. (Studio Art) from New York University. Her interdisciplinary work in drawing, painting, sculpture/ installation, photography and video has appeared in a number of solo and group exhibitions in North America and internationally.

Bahl is a founding artist member of SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) and ZEN-MIX 2000: Pan-Asian Visual Arts Network in Toronto. From 2012-16 she served on the Board of Directors for the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective in NYC.

She has also worked with a number of arts organizations as an educator, curator and arts programmer. Currently, she is developing new interdisciplinary art projects and teaching at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn. 

Interview with Shyam Selvadurai

Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Funny Boy, his first novel, won the W.H. Smith/ Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award in the US. He is the author of Cinnamon Gardens and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, and the editor of an anthology, Story-wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction. His books have been published in the US, the UK and India, and published in translation in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and Israel. His latest novel, The Hungry Ghosts, was published April 2, 2013 in Canada, India and Sri Lanka.

Interview with Steve Pereira

Steve R.E Pereira is a Goan, Indian, Tanzanian, Canadian, Australian gay man who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. Steve has had over 20 years of experience in community engagement in the tertiary education sector and arts and cultural arenas with a focus on culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Steve works and volunteers as a Creative Producer developing and managing performance and art related community engagement and community development projects. Steve is on the management committee, producer and host with the very queer Bent TV and is the founder and coordinator of the now 6th annual Sunshine Short Film Festival. Steve most recently assistant directed a production of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children working with the famed Chris Kohn for the Victorian College of the Arts. Steve adapted and directed Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol into The Graceful Giraffe Cannot Become a Monkey for the Big West Festival 2015 and is currently working on a school tour remount. Other productions Steve is particularly proud of include producing and directing Brecht’s Fear and Loathing in the Third Reich for the Darebin Theatre Project and Fiddler on the Roof for St. Mathews Musical Society and a long time ago It’s a Goan Thing for the Goan Overseas Association in Toronto.

Interview with Zainub Verjee

Zainub Verjee, the Executive Director of Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto, is an accomplished leader in the art and culture sector and has shaped culture policy at all levels of governments and contributed to building of cultural institutions and organizations in Canada.
At City of Mississauga, her work as the inaugural Director led to setting up of its Culture Division and the first Culture Master Plan. As Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Canadian Heritage and Program Officer at the Canada Council for the Arts, serving on cross-sectoral portfolios. She was the Executive Director, Western Front, after being the Co-Director/Founder of InVisible Colours.

Among many appointments to Boards, she is proud of her work at the B.C. Arts Board that led to the formation of the B.C. Arts Council and among others, currently sits on the Advisory Board of ArtsBuild Ontario and is the Chairperson of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.

Her art work has been shown at the Venice Biennale and Museum of Modern Art, NY and resides in private and public collections (Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada)

Research and Educational Materials

Later this summer, we will be launching a suite of research and education resources to accompany the project. They will include recommended reading material, transcriptions of all the interviews, along with education guides.

These will be launched as a digital exhibition through the CLGA Digital Collections. The interviews will be deposited at the CLGA and the York University Archives.

Transcription of All Interviews


Afshan Ali
Al-Noor Peera
Alnoor Dewshi
Alnoor Wissanji
Ali Kazimi
Ali Koushkani
Alia Toor
Alicia Peres
Allan deSouza
Alok Sharma
Amardeep Khosla
Ameen Gill Dhillon
Amie Parikh
Amina Ally
Amina Sherazee
Amita Handa
Amrit Wilson
Amy Casippulai
Anand Patwardhan
Anand Rajaram
Ananya Chatterji
Anar Ali
Andil Gosine
Anjula (Anju) Gogia
Anne Castelino
Anthony Mohamed
Anu Rima Bannerjee
Anu Radha Verma
Anusia Govindasamy
Aparita Bhandari
Archana Sharma
Arif Noorani
Arnold Itwaru
Arshad Khan
Arun Mukherjee
Aruna Srivastava
Ashok Mathur
Atif Ghani
Ayisha Abraham
Brenna Bhandar
Cameron Bailey
Cheryl Khidaroo
Chris Paul
Christine Wong
Clifton Joseph
Colin Mohammed
Dharini Abeyesekara
David Kalal
Debi Ray-Chaudhuri
Deborah Barretto
Deena Ladd
Deepa Dhanraj
Dionne Brand
Devan Nambir
Devika Ponnambalam
DJ Ritu
Dolores Chew
Dunstan Egbert
El-Farouk Khaki
Enam Huque
Farook Hirji
Farzana Doctor
Fatima Amarshi
Fatema Mullan
Fatima Jaffer
Fauzia Rafiq
Gayatri Gopinath
Geeta Citygirl Chopra
Geeta Sondhi
Ghanesh Das
Gitanjali Kolanad
Gitanjali Natasha Lena
Glace Lawrence
Grace Poore
Gurinder Chadha
Harjeet Badwall
Heidi McKenzie
Himani Bannerji
Hussain Amarshi
Ian Iqbal Rashid
Ilan Kapoor
Indran Amirthanayagam
Jaishri Abichandani
Judy Vashti Persad
Julian Samuel
Kalpesh Oza
Karen Tish
Karim Ladak
Karlene Mootoo
Karma Clarke Davis
Kaspar Jivan Saxena
Kaushalya Bannerji
Kevin d’Souza
Krishantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta
Kulwinder Bajar
Leah Lakshmi Piepznsa-Samarasinha
Leela Acharya
Leila Sujir
Lipika Bannerjee
Lorraine Filyer
M.G. Vassanji
Malika Mendez
Manavi Handa
Manjira Datta
Mark Haslam
Marlene Nourbese Philip
Meena Nanji
Meera Dhebar
Meera Sethi
Michael Ondaatje
Michele Taghioff
Michelle Mohabeer
Mira Nair
Mohamed Khaki
Monica Deol
Moyez Vassanji
Nadia Junaid
Natasha Singh
Nayan Shah
Neena Arora
Neesha Meminger
Nelson Carvalho
Nila Gupta
Nityanand Deckha
Nova Battacharya
Nuzhat Abbas
Pamila Matharu
Paramjit Rai
Paritosh Mehta
Paul Berges
Phinder Dulai
Piali Roy
Prabha Khosla
Pramila Aggarwal
Pratibha Parmar
Premika Ratnam
Punam Khosla
Rachel Kalpana James
Radhika Balakrisnan
Raghu Krishnan
Rahul Varma
Rakesh Ratti
Raj Pannu
Ramabai Espinet
Ramona Gananathan
Ranjit Serasinghe
Rashmi Varma
Reena Mohan
Reeta Chowdry
Rehan Ansaria
Rehka Malhotra
Renuka Satchithnanthan
Revathy Selvadurai
Richard Fung
Richard Kadir
Rienzi Crusz
Rinaldo Walcott
Rishika Williams
Roger Sinha
Rukhsana Mosam
Sadhu Bining
Saeed Khan
Salimah Kassim-Lakha
Saniya Ansari
Sandra Laronde
Sanjay Patel
Sapna Patel
Sarojini Lang
Sartaj Kaur
Sayeda Sherazee
Sean Meghoo-Lokaisingh
Seleena Tandan
Shakil Choudhury
Shamini Fernando
Shamina Senaratne
Shani Mootoo
Shanti Dhore
Sharmini Perez
Sharon Fernandes
Sharon Lewis
Sharona Plakidas
Sheherezade Alam
Sheila Bhattacharya
Sheila James
Shelly Bahl
Shyam Selvadurai
Sonali Fernando
Sonia Ansaria
Sonia Dhillon
Soraya Kassim-Lakha
Soraya Peerbaye
Star Jacob
Steve Pereira
Sudharshan Durayappah
Suman Goyal
Sudha Coomarasamy
Sunil Gupta
Suniti Namjoshi
Sutapa Majumdar
Swati Khurana
Tamara Zeta Makhan
Tanya/Suvendrini Lena
Thomas Ponniah
Tim McKassel
Tina Lopes
Vanita Varma
Vashti Persad
Ven Begamudre
Vijay Iyer
Vinita Srivastava
Viresh Hirji/Viresh Fernando
Vivek Bald
Wasim Ghani
Wayne Van Der Meide
Yasmin Jiwani
Yonas Haile Mikael
Zahra Dhanani (DJ Zahra)
Zamil Janmohamed
Zainub Verjee
Zool Suleman
Zulfikar Hirji

Browse through this working list of media organizations, venues, and other groups that were related to the work of Desh Pardesh. 

Rungh Magazine (News – Print)
TSAR (Toronto South Asian Review)
FUSE Magazine (News – Print)
Euclid Theatre (Venue)
The 519 (Venue)
Metro Central YMCA (Venue)
Theatre Passe Muraille (Venue)
Masala Mixers (Events)
ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention)
Culture Works (Organization)
Indo Caribbean World (News – Print)
GOA Pulse Magazine (News – Print)
India Currents (News – Print)
India Abroad (News – Print)
Metro Word (News – Print)
CKLN (News – Radio)
CIUT (News – Radio)
CHRY (News – Radio)
CFMT’s Asian Horizons and South Asian Newsweek (News – TV)
XTRA Magazine (News – Print)
NOW (News – Print)
EYE Magazine (News – Print)
Toronto Star (News – Print)
SAID (South Asian issues discussed, student group at York U)
South Asian Women’s Centre
Tarang (Performance group based in Kitchener-Waterloo)
Avec Pyar
Work Place Arts: A Labour Arts Office
Saheli South Asian Women’s Theatre Troupe
Queer Womyn Colouring the Century
CASSA (Coalition of Agencies Serving South Asians)
SALDA (South Asian Left Democratic Alliance)
CERAS (South Asian Research and Resource Centre, MTL)
South Asian Women’s Centre
SAWG (South Asian Women’s Group)
SALCI (South Asian Legal Clinic Initiative)
Diva – a quarterly journal of South Asian women – formed as non-profit in 1987, incorporated 1988
Montreal Serai Magazine

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