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Vivek Shraya is the artist we need right now

June 30th, 2017

If you haven’t heard of Vivek Shraya, it’s about time you did.

She recently appeared on the AGO’s popular panel discussion, I Thought There’d Be More Vaginas: Artists on Gender, with poet Eileen Myles, artist Lori Blondeau and moderated by Georgia O’Keeffe curator Georgiana Uhlyarik. She talked to NOW Magazine last week about issues of identity, transphobia and who gets to call themselves a woman in 2017. And now she returns to the AGO to take the spotlight this Friday in the Skylight Concert Series—a program of three performances that use music to explore questions of identity, expression and community, all live in Walker Court.

Vivek Shraya will perform with Queer Songbook Orchestra, a 12-piece chamber pop collective of queer and allied musicians. This performance marks the launch of Shraya’s album Part-Time Woman, which poses the question: What defines woman?

In addition to celebrating the launch of Shraya’s latest album, here are three more reasons you shouldn’t miss Vivek Shraya and Queer Songbook Orchestra at the AGO this Friday night:

  1. Vivek Shraya is an advocate for trans artists and trans issues.
    This topic is explored in Part-Time Woman. Shraya recently told NOW Magazine, “I think there’s this idea of woman as sort of a universal experience or the whole experience. But as a trans girl, I’ve really struggled with coming into that word because of my own internalized transphobia… I found myself thinking a lot about what it means to be a girl and who gets to define that. Also, thinking about the way I wanted to, yeah, just complicate the idea of womanhood.”
  2. She’s the definition of multidisciplinary.
    As well as an established musical artist, Shraya is a published poet (even this page is white) and children’s book author (The Boy & the Bindi), who has also published a novel (She of the Mountains) and a collection of short stories (God Loves Hair). She is also a filmmaker (Holy Mother My Mother, I want to kill myself), and visual artist (including a photo series in which she recreates old photos of her mother, TRISHA). It truly boggles the mind how one person can be so talented at so many things.
  3. She’s leading the way for younger generations of writers of colour.
    It was recently announced that Shraya was partnering with Arsenal Pulp Press to start an imprint called Vs. Books “to offer a deep mentorship and publication opportunity to a writer of Indigenous background or a person of colour who is living in Canada and between the ages of 18 and 24.”

Shraya said, “Last year, I mentored nine writers – one a month. It was an amazing experience. But the one thing that comes out of it was always this question: how do I get published?”

“It took me a long time to see why my white peers were able to bounce back much quicker and keep going. I wasn’t. It’s because you deal with so much racism, as well as homophobia, and challenges growing up, being rejected means being dismantled.”

AGO Friday Nights performances are included in General Admission, and AGO Members get to attend for free as often as they like.

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