Decolonising Clay

Decolonising Clay

Panel Moderator - Heidi McKenzie

My practice, both sculptural and functional, is rooted in the implications and lived existence of my mixed Indo-Trinidadian and Irish-American heritage. By giving voice to “the other” in an otherwise mainstream predominantly euro-centric profession, I propose to hold space and make place for race and the politics of race at TACTT 2019. I am moderating and presenting within the context of Decolonizing Clay, as well as curating an exhibition by the same title onsite. Confirmed artists include myself, Sydney-based Arun Sharma as well as Neville Assad-Salha who straddles South Australia and Lebanon. The panellists have been invited to engage issues of race and marginalization as they are expressed through their ceramic practice as well as personal narrative and their lived experience as artists.

I will be exhibiting/discussing both self-reflective works and pieces that draw on my family archive. The latter literally situate my experience of being Canadian: born and raised as a brown girl, daughter of a mixed couple, in small-town White-Canada, I was surrounded by the largely Eurocentric iconography of Canada at every turn.  Through the lens of a child, I was unaware of my otherness or the realities of First Nations and immigrant communities in my own backyard. As an adult in Toronto, the quotidian nature or my racialized experience is all too real.  As a Canadian-born woman of colour, I find myself unwittingly relegated to the happenstance spaces formed at the intersection of the mainstream, that is, at the corners of Canadianness.


Panel member - Arun Sharma

Being an autobiographical extension of myself, my fine art (sculpture, video, photography) and ceramic practice is my attempt to understand myself and my life through self-expression. Having been born and raised in New York, USA a lot of my early experiences were colored by my experience as the son of a single mother who was also an Indian immigrant.  After losing my mother, just as I was graduating high school, I spent the last twenty years living, studying, and working as an artist in different places internationally.  This experience of living as an Indian American in numerous countries, and now living as an immigrant in Sydney, Australia has greatly contributed to my perspective on my personal art practice and my perspective in life.

On the panel I will be discussing my personal experiences growing up as a minority among minorities in the USA, being an oddity among the international community in Japan, trying to find opportunities in Australia, applying and attending graduate school in the USA, being a part of a multi-national graduate class in the UK, living and working as professor in rural Oregon and now living/ working as an artist in Sydney.  I will also discuss how my Indian background contributed to the beginning of the (de)composition series that I have been working on since 2009 and how because of my international perspective my work tries to talk about shared human experiences.