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Victoria University President Rhonda N. McEwen unveiling an empty frame in place of a portrait of Egerton Ryerson on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Sept. 29, 2023. (Photo by Minh Truong)

The yearlong project in the foyer of the iconic Victoria College Building where the portraits of former presidents and principals are displayed was launched on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 2023.  A frame with educational information was hung in the place where a portrait of Egerton Ryerson, one of Victoria University’s founders, was displayed prior to 2021. Reflections on Art & History at Victoria University will feature art takeovers in the space by Indigenous and Black student artists throughout the year. The project was conceived of in collaboration with Victoria University’s Indigenous Advisory Circle, which is comprised of Indigenous community leaders, students, faculty and staff. 

Emmanuel College Professor Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo addresses attendees of Victoria University's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Minh Truong)

“When I became the first Black woman to lead a university in Canada, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on what this milestone meant both to me personally and to the university. Walking through the foyer of Old Vic, greeted by the faces of revered former presidents and principals was a reminder of the talent and vision that came before me, but also of the stark lack of diversity. I hope that Reflections on Art & History at Victoria University will be a catalyst for deeper dialogue that can cut through polarization so that we can learn from one another,” says Rhonda N. McEwen, president and vice-chancellor.

Prior to the unveiling of the empty frame, students, staff, and faculty of Victoria University gathered in a circle for meaningful discussions during the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Minh Truong) 

“Inviting Indigenous and Black students to display their art in the same space as portraits that reflect Victoria University’s history is an exciting way to celebrate progress, but also an important reminder that there is still so much work to do to ensure all voices, perspectives, histories and cultures are embedded within the University,” says Shane Joy, president of the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC), and member of the Indigenous Advisory Circle.  

Victoria University will decide how to approach the portrait of Egerton Ryerson in April 2024, following the yearlong discussion and learning generated from Reflections on Art & History at Victoria University.  

“Instead of hiding our history, we are choosing to have a dialogue with it. Students, faculty, librarians, staff and community members are invited to learn, challenge and consider how we present and engage with our history,” says President McEwen. 

Read the full press release.

Read the Presidential Report on the Legacy of Egerton Ryerson.

Shane Kejick | Neechi by Nature

Artist's Collection Description

A selection from the Neechi by Nature collection by artist Shane Kejick was installed in the foyer of the Victoria College Building (Old Vic) in March 2024. This growing collection of wearable art pieces is inspired and influenced by Shane's Anishinaabe Ojibwe heritage and upbringing in impoverished urban communities or ghettos, filled with people of colour. This art is a representation and reflection of his love for the Anishnaabe Woodlands art style and urban culture. Shane's art reflects on the organic fashion that style and resilience present themselves in an urban setting, immersed in the reality of hardship and beauty. His use of monochromatic colours represents the hardships young men of colour often face, where black is often portrayed as something dark and untrustworthy, while white, by contrast, is seen as the inner light. Other pieces use the colours of the Anishinaabe Four Directions: red, black, yellow, and white, which in turn represent the four directions. Along with Indigenous designs, this collection is inspired by high fashion, taking elements from designers like Versace, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. This collection aims to not only represent urban Indigenous culture but also uplift, create space and propel it into its own category of individual design.

About the Artist

Shane Kejick (Kelsey) is a multidisciplinary artist, working across various platforms including hip-hop music and production, filmmaking and design. After studying wardrobe design and set design, Shane discovered a passion for fashion design. Realizing there wasn’t much Indigenous designer apparel available, Shane decided to research and start his brand, Neechi By Nature. Shane intended to create space for Indigenous men in fashion through design, while at the same time making his designs available to the community.

Joël Ndongmi | "Pink Sculpture"

Pink Sculpture” by artist Joël Ndongmi.

Artist's Description

This art piece was created by Joël Ndongmi, a recent graduate of Victoria College. In their daily life, they have always been drawn to the vivacity of flowers. They are inspired by the Japanese art of Ikebana due to its emphasis on structure and angularity. "Pink Sculpture” was created from a bouquet that caught Joël’s attention at their local Loblaws store. In this photo, they worked to highlight the bright colours and serpentine attributes of the bouquet. In naming this piece “Pink Sculpture,” Joël draws attention to the ephemerality of the arrangement. Flowers are frail and, generally, do not hold themselves up without being rooted in the ground. The careful positioning of these flowers on a flower frog, dissimulated by flower heads, results in a temporal artifice allowing viewers to meditate on the unique attributes of the blossoms. Not too long after the picture was captured, the flowers waned. Despite their evanescence, in the very second of capture, the flowers expressed a solid, coherent, and structured whole—a sculpture.

About the Artist 

Joël Ndongmi is a Victoria College student studying political science, English and diaspora studies. Fascinated by the colours, characters and shapes of flowers, they draw inspiration from the Japanese practice of Ikebana when creating their floral arrangements.