Toronto Link Up: Nayani Vathsaladevi-Thiyagarajah
The internet is a powerful space for building connections but nothing beats meeting in person. I am in Toronto preparing to present my research on cultural memory & the Grenada Revolution at a conference on Latin America and the Caribbean this Friday (more info). I’ve decided to spend extra time here connecting with my sister and my beautiful niece & nephew but also with some of the dynamic people who live here. Sharing the inspiration of these incredible change makers is crucial to me, so this “Toronto Link Up” mini-series will be the pathway for connecting you to their stories.
After viewing the short film, Shadeism, and using it in a body image workshop at Camp Glow last summer, I was very excited to meet up with the creator Nayani Vathsaladevi-Thiyagarajah this morning. We shared our stories over much needed hot drinks at Rachel’s Coffee House on Yonge St. Nayani’s parents immigrated from Sri Lanka as refugees in the 80′s. Growing up in a city as culturally diverse as Toronto she describes her reality as one that is filled with many second mothers hailing from Jamaica to Somalia. Her own mom has spoken to this blessing by saying, ”You guys have come here and now you have family all over the world.” Nayani takes her love and responsibility to this global family seriously and has worked as part of a number of collective creation projects with youth, using art to make her communities stronger. She is a part of T-Dot Renaissance a collective of emerging and interdisciplinary artists, working and rooted in Toronto, hailing from all over the global south. In fact, the founder Amanda Parris is of Grenadian background (and is featured in Shadeism).
Nayani pursing a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University but has no ambition of being bogged down in academia. She is hands on and all about being the ground level and making an impact from there. I spoke about my work as a yoga teacher and the way I see it as a small act of revolution. This lead us to discuss the necessity of nurturing and healing on both individual and collective levels. Then she dug into her bag and pulled out a book that looked incredible, The Radical Doula Guide by Miriam Zoila Pérez. Whether through film, community art projects, potentially becoming a doula or a combination of these modalities, Nayani’s desire is to support women of color in honing their voices and trusting both their voices and their bodies again.
Support Nayani’s vision by donation and/or spreading the word about her campaign to make Shadeism into a feature length documentary. ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT!
Co-Founder Groundation Grenada
Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe is a Grenadian contemporary artist and activist. She is director of public Relations at The Grenada Goat Dairy Project. She is also co-founder of Spice Harmony Yoga Studio in Calivigny St.George, Grenada. Malaika is a certified yoga teacher, holds a BA in Studio Art from Smith College and is pursuing her MA in Cultural Studies through University of the West Indies.