Arts and Culture Exhibit

Concordia Fine Arts Student Exhibits at the AGO

Queer Cameroonian-Belgian artist and Concordia Studio Arts BFA student Mallory Lowe Mpoka is currently exhibiting at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto as part of a group exhibition titled Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Low Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase. The exhibition is situated in the inner gallery space of the Department of the Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora. Established in 2020, the department seeks to redress the representation of both historic and contemporary African art through their programming and exhibitions. 

Three artists draw from Western and Central African traditions of studio portraiture in order to critically examine the history of photography within broader conversations of the African diaspora. Mpoka’s work makes use of a variety of materials such as archival family photos and natural pigments in order to explore themes of home, heritage, belonging and connection. 

The Self-Portrait Project (2020) is a pair of black and white photographs that feature two staged self-portraits of Mpoka standing with one leg resting on a stool. In both images, Mpoka holds a framed vintage photograph of her father close to her body—a gesture that speaks to her connection with her Bamileke heritage. The family portrait signifies the distance between past and present, where the commemoration of heritage is rooted in a sense of loss. 

 Her dynamic posture is both nonchalant and assertive. She engages the viewer and invites them into the image, but she does not directly return their gaze, for her eyes are obscured by dark sunglasses or the brim of a hat. Her stance creates an impactful exchange of looks between the subject and the audience. She offers a glimpse into her identity, but keeps a protective distance from the viewer. The portraits maintain that there is always a measure of opacity in agency; the artist reserves the right to carefully choose what she reveals.

Mallory Lowe Mpoka. The Self-Portrait Project I, 2020. Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, Overall: 48.3 × 55.9 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Mallory Lowe Mpoka.
Mallory Lowe Mpoka. The Self-Portrait Project II, 2020. Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, Overall: 48.3 × 55.9 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Mallory Lowe Mpoka

Mpoka’s series What Lives Within Us is an experimental multimedia project that expands on this notion of memory and heritage by blending material and image. The series brings together found photographs from Mpoka’s family archives and craft techniques such as natural dye processes, collage and embroidery. Mpoka reworks the photographs using materials from her family’s sewing workshop in Douala, Cameroon. The threads she uses were hand-dyed with pigments from Cameroon’s highland soil. By sewing the thread directly onto the surface, she obscures and thus protects the identity of the subjects. This action is another assertion of privacy as she negotiates her sense of belonging.

Mallory Lowe Mpoka, What Lives Within Us, Gallery 249. The Art Gallery of Ontario, Photo by Emma Bell

Re-Mixing African Photography will be on view until January 7, 2024. Admission is free of charge for all Indigenous peoples, AGO members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under.


2019 South Asian Film Festival Preview

Six days, 24 films.

The 2019 South Asian Film Festival of Montréal (SAFF) is back for its 9th edition, kicking off the first of two consecutive weekends of films from South Asia and beyond, on Oct. 25 at Concordia University’s J.A. de Sève cinema.

The SAFF aims to bridge geographical and cultural distances through film, and the festival itself is a celebration of filmmakers from the Indian subcontinent, as well as diaspora filmmakers all over the world. This year’s film selection includes both fiction and documentary, ranging from shorts to feature-length films. The broad thematic range covers subjects of activism, aging, women’s rights and more.

“We try to include films from as many countries as possible and also in as many languages as possible,” said TK Raghunathan, President of Kabir Centre for Arts & Culture, the non-profit parent organization of SAFF. India, Afghanistan, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan are a few of the countries of origin appearing in the credits.

The popular Diaspora Panel will continue this year, with filmmakers, academics and activists from the diaspora present after selected films to discuss their work with the audience. Among this years panelists is Thomas Waugh, Professor Emeritus at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, English Professor Jill Didur, and Yasmin Jiwani, Communication Studies professor and Research Chair in Intersectionality, Violence & Resistance at Concordia.

“In the past few years, audiences have been incredibly responsive and we are gaining quite a following in Quebec,” said Dipti Gupta, Director of the SAFF. “We have managed to bring films for all ages and from different parts of South Asia.”

Along with a selection of new films, the 9th annual festival is ushering in a few changes to the program as well; this year, each film will be subtitled in both English and French, and a new section called “Cinema Of Art” has been added to highlight films about art and artists. The festival will close with a screening of Neel Akasher Neechey, to celebrate the legacy of its director Mrinal Sen, who died last December.

Here’s a preview of what’s in store, and if you like what you see, check out the full list of films here.


WEEKEND 1 (Oct. 25-27)

Oct. 25 @ 6:30 p.m.

“In modern Mumbai of glass skyscrapers, the young widow Ratna works as a maid for Ashwin, a young man from a wealthy home, who apparently has everything it takes for a comfortable life. On the other hand, Ratna has one thing above all: the desire to work for a better life and to realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer. When Ashwin’s carefully arranged storybook wedding bursts, Ratna seems to be the only one who understands Ashwin’s deep melancholy. Ashwin falls in love with the housemaid and discovers in her a strong-willed and sensual woman who is ready to stand up for her dreams.”

The Soundman Mangesh Desai
Oct. 26 @ 6:30 p.m.

“Mangesh Desai, one of the top ten sound mixing engineers of the world according to the New York Times, was a colourful character whose understanding of the craft and technique was unparalleled. The film narrates the fascinating story of how he created sounds for iconic movies such as Sholay, Pakeeza, Kabhi Kabhi and many others. His dynamic range of work goes from the artistic extremes of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal’s art films to Manmohan Desai’s commercial films. He could blend himself according to the needs of the subject, the film and the director, but no one could proceed without receiving his approval and availability.”

The Orphanage
Oct. 27 @ 12:00 p.m.

“The Orphanage is a beautifully photographed, quietly methodical portrait of 1989 Kabul and tells the story of young Quodrat rounded up by the cops and sent to a public orphanage. The movie was shot in Tadjikistan, mixing natural splendors with the starker institutional interiors. A grainy look makes the film feel like it was actually made in the 80s, adding to its historical authenticity. When, at the end, the orphanage risks tumbling along with the Soviet regime, you’re left with the harrowing feeling that for Quodrat and his friends, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

After Sabeen
Oct. 27 @ 6:30 p.m.

“Karachi, Pakistan. 24 April 2015. A car stops at a red-light. Inside are two women: Sabeen and her mother Mahenaz. Two men on a motorcycle stop and open fire. Sabeen dies on the spot; her mother gets wounded but survives. Moments before she was killed, Sabeen Mahmud, founder and director of the non-profit cultural institution Peace Niche, had hosted a discussion on the unexplained and ongoing disappearances of more than 20,000 activists and civilians in the country. Sabeen had been warned and advised to cancel the event but she went ahead insisting, “someone’s got to do this!” In the wake of the killing, the director tiptoes ”After Sabeen“ following her mother and friends to record not only their memories and grief but also their ongoing impetus to continue Sabeen’s work.”


WEEKEND 2 (Nov. 1-3)

Nov. 1 @ 6:30 p.m.

“A mini-bus is on a journey across the mountains to Kabul. Each person on the bus has a reason to make this journey. An old man is traveling to give a turkey to his grandchild, as his last wish before dying. However, the main road is blocked by insurgents. They decide to use an alternative road, which is not very secure, and there is still the possibility of getting caught by insurgents.”

Shit one Carries*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
India/New Zealand

“Avinash, a Silicon Valley engineer, returns to India to care for his bedridden father. Unlike the warmth his father shares with his professional caregivers, the father and son’s relationship is prickly. One afternoon when the usual attendant is unavailable, Avinash confronts awkward intimacies for which he was never prepared.”

Untying the Knot*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.

“Untying the Knot tells the powerful story of Rumana Monzur, the blinded survivor of a domestic attack, and her courageous pursuit of a career in Canada. A powerful exploration of marriage in Bangladesh, the film also follows three women in Dhaka as they struggle with abuse and social pressure, laying bare the sacrifices made by women in the name of marital expectation.”

* Post-screening discussion led by this year’s Diaspora panelists.


The Sweet Requiem
Nov. 3 @ 12:00 p.m.

“When a young, exiled Tibetan woman unexpectedly sees a man from her past, long-suppressed memories of her traumatic escape across the Himalayas are reignited and she is propelled on an obsessive search for reconciliation and closure.”


Tickets for each film are available online, with the option to purchase an all-access festival pass for one or both weekends.




Feature still from the film Sir


Navigating the South Asian diaspora in film

Montreal welcomes eighth annual South Asian Film Festival

Outside of Montreal’s Pepsi Forum, it is increasingly rare to see international films in the city. Hollywood dominates the film industry, leaving little to no room for other diasporas. Hosted by the Kabir Centre for Arts and Culture and running for its eighth edition, the South Asian Film Festival showcased South Asia’s best cinematography and presented films in various languages from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4  in Montreal.

“We are committed to showcasing new artistic work that has South Asian content that fosters discussions and explores the world we inhabit,” said festival director Dipti Gupta. “The festival is a platform for filmmakers worldwide whose films have a focus on South Asia and its diaspora.” The festival first began in 2011 and has been an annual non-profit event since.
As festival director, Gupta said she had the honour to select for the featured films. This allowed her to meet many influential people and draw diverse audiences.

The South Asian Film Festival is the only festival in Quebec that highlights the South Asian region. The festival’s focus on this area of the world allows audiences to understand the way of life in these countries. Overall, Gupta said she hopes the festival sheds light on the art, culture, politics, economics and social issues of this region.

“While the films may be from South Asia, the themes are often relevant to the entire world,” Gupta noted.

Last year, the festival introduced a diaspora panel where filmmakers are able to share their work as well as interact with the audience. According to Gupta, this panel encourages local filmmakers and film students in the audience to seek out stories that are important to them and touch on subjects that have not been encountered in film before. This year, four filmmakers discussed their work as well as their journeys in the industry.

In addition to her work in the festival, Gupta has taught a Bollywood course at Concordia for 12 years. She has also been teaching a course on diaspora and filmmaking since last September. “These courses are very much linked to the idea that I came up with last year to add a diaspora panel to the festival,” Gupta said.

Dant (Teeth) focuses on the unconventional relationship between a hungry street child and a medical student who cross paths.

The festival showcased 27 unique films that deal with the theme of diaspora in thought-provoking ways for audiences across generations. Among these was the seven-minute long Bengali film Dant (Teeth), directed by journalist and scriptwriter, Iqbal Hossain Chowdhury. Dant (Teeth) is Chowdhury’s first film and focuses on the unconventional relationship between a hungry street child and a medical student who cross paths.

Gupta said she and her team recognise that the festival’s audience is diverse and hope to keep improving every year. “Our staff always makes sure that there is something for each palate and age group and that we can draw an intergenerational audience for the festival,” she said.

The festival will continue in Saguenay from Nov. 16 to 18 in collaboration with Bibliothèques Saguenay. For tickets, visit

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