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Young Toronto Muslim women turn to art for better representation

New exhibit at Gardiner Museum explores identity.

Zahra Agjee, left, and SoJin Chun worked together with 12 young Muslim women in Toronto on the creation of the Collecting Personal Archives exhibition at the Gardiner Museum.

Photo courtesy: Tara Fillion

Zahra Agjee, left, and SoJin Chun worked together with 12 young Muslim women in Toronto on the creation of the Collecting Personal Archives exhibition at the Gardiner Museum.

An exhibition at the Gardiner Museum is reimagining the representation of Muslim women through art.

Collecting Personal Archives is a multimedia artshow that highlights the talents of a dozen young Muslim women in Toronto. The show attempts to bring a personal touch to the conversation about creating positive and safe spaces in a city as diverse as Toronto.

Zahra Agjee, artist and founder of the Truth & Dare Project, said the goal is to help young Muslim women use visual art as a vehicle for emotional expression and a way to "get away from everyday stresses."

But it's also about giving participants an opportunity to make their voices heard on issues such as identity, belonging and politics.

"Many times we are spoken for by other people who think that they know what we want or believe that they know what we are going through," she said. "That's not really the case."

The Truth & Dare Project partnered with local visual artist and curator SoJin Chun to run creative workshops for the participants last spring at The 519. The young Muslim women used the skills they learned there to create various pieces of art for this exhibition, including ceramics, photographs, fashion, video and much more.

Agjee said it's important for young Muslims to discover and use their own voices, especially now that the political climate can shape people's perception of one's identity.

"There are extreme levels of Islamophobia everywhere now," she said, noting the dominating image of Muslims in mainstream media is not necessarily who all of them are or what they want to be.

"If someone wears a hijab or looks visibly different, you may just view them as Muslim or have your own biases. But we're all humans and have the same needs."

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