Two artists who had a profound impact on how Vancouver sees itself will be feted at SFU Convocation ceremonies in 2023.
Cultural critic, artist, and public intellectual Zainub Verjee was the longtime executive director of the Western Front in Vancouver in the 1990s. She went from there to senior arts-related positions in all levels of government.
One of her more notable local contributions was co-organizing the landmark In Visible Colours—Women of Colour and Third Women International Film and Video festival with Lorraine Chan in Vancouver in 1989.
“In Visible Colours emerged amid contestations on nation building and the making of a global neoliberal order, as much as the socio-political upheaval of the late 1970s and 1980s that foregrounded race and gender and the politics of cultural difference,” Verjee told Pancouver last year. “Today, its history is critical to our conversations as we continue with these debates whether we speak of feminist international relations or postcolonial aesthetics or power!”
Verjee is an Ismaili Muslim immigrant born in Kenya. She also played a key role in the Vancouver Arts Initiative advanced by a former mayor, Gordon Campbell. In addition, she’s been a vocal advocate for a basic income for artists both in Canada and internationally.
Verjee will receive her honorary degree in at the June Convocation.
Seven others will also receive honorary degrees at that time: McGill University law professor Adelle Blackett, who is the principal drafter of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education; geoscientist and volcanologist Donald Dingwell; pioneering queer lawyer barbara findlay; filmmaker and author Dany Laferrière; former B.C. cabinet minister Joy MacPhail; former MP Svend Robinson; and B.C. tech-industry leader, educator, and Innovation Commissioner Gerri Sinclair.
Public art: "Abbott and Cordova, August 7, 1971" (Stan Douglas, 2009). Recreates Gastown Riot. 45 years ago! pic.twitter.com/39Sx42lOfh
— John Steil (@johnsteil) August 7, 2016
SFU also celebrates Stan Douglas
In October, SFU will grant an honorary degree to Vancouver artist Stan Douglas. His works are in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery in London, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and many other galleries.
Douglas’s work often re-enacts moments of protest and tension in history, including the 2011 Stanley Cup riot and the 1971 Gastown riot in Vancouver. His massive 30′ by 50′ photo installation of the latter event, Abbott & Cordova, August 7, 1971, is displayed in the atrium of the Woodward’s building, which also houses an SFU campus.
Douglas created this with the help of more than 100 actors in the roles of hippies and riot police. He’s Black and grew up in a mostly white, middle-class Vancouver neighbourhood. His art has often highlighted issues of class.
In addition, he has reworked parts of various films, including Marnie by Alfred Hitchcock and Journey Into Fear by Orson Welles. In 2021, Douglas represented Canada at the Venice Biennale.
Also receiving SFU honorary degrees in October will be the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Esther Duflo; Musqueam elder and Indigenous languages advocate Larry Grant, who’s also of Chinese heritage; and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad, who’s Northern Secwépemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation.
Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr.