Zainub Verjee, born in Kenya and educated in the UK, arrived in Canada in the early 1970s and studied business administration and economics at Simon Fraser University. Deeply engaged with the UK’s British Black Arts, Third Cinema, and the post-Bandung decolonization, and a close collaborator with Ken Lum in the early years of Vancouver’s photoconceptualism movement, and with Sara Diamond on the history of women’s labour in British Columbia, Zainub was the co-founder and co-director of In Visible Colours (1989) and later led the Western Front as the executive director throughout the 1990s. She then moved to Ontario to work with the Canada Council for the Arts, the arts policy branch at the Department of Canadian Heritage, and later as the inaugural director of the Culture Division at the City of Mississauga
Embedded in a fluxus ethos, apart from her practice as a multidisciplinary artist, she is a programmer/curator, critic, writer, arts administrator, and activist. With expertise in cultural policy and cultural diplomacy, over four decades she has contributed to international and national policies and legislation pertaining to the culture sector, including the international instruments like the Status of the Artists and Cultural Diversity. Her work on the British Columbia Arts Board led to the formation of British Columbia Arts Council. She has also contributed to the formation of many other institutions. An active member of civil society, she was the Vancouver moderator of the Spicer Commission – The Citizen's Forum on Canada's Future. She continues to work on issues of artist labour, artist income, racial equity, gender, cultural planning, intellectual property, digital ecosystems of art, cultural institutions, cultural diplomacy, and culture trade.
Her artworks have been shown at the Venice Biennale; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, US; Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie, France; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, México; D.F. (Mexico City, Mexico), Faculty of Fine Arts; M.S. University of Baroda, India; and they also reside in private and public collections (Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada).
Zainub Verjee is the laureate of the 2020 Governor General's Visual and Media Arts award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Canada. View Zainub Verjee and Niranjan Rajah in conversation on #AGALive for the Governor General Award Series. She is currently involved in the national campaign on basic income and is the co-author of the public letter to the Prime Minister of Canada on basic income guarantee. #artists4basicincome
Currently, she is the executive director of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries in Toronto. Visit her website for more information.
In spring 2021, Zainub was conferred with an honorary doctorate from the OCAD University, Canada’s university of the imagination. Here is the media release.