2019 RBC Arts Access Award recipients

The first round of the 2019 RBC Arts Access Award recipients are: 


Banafsheh - black and white photo of womanBanafsheh Erfanian is a Toronto-based painter, illustrator, and educator. She was born in Tehran, Iran, and graduated from Tehran University of Art with a Bachelor of Graphic Design and also holds an MFA in Illustration. Banafsheh has illustrated 30 books and magazines and has written more than 25 articles in art publications. She has been painting and illustrating for 15 years, and her work has been exhibited in 45 shows around the world in Iran, Italy, U.S., Canada, Russia, China, Japan, and Serbia and has won the award of excellence at the Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition (China) in 2016 and an encouragement prize from the 15th Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustration (Japan) in 2004. Banafsheh has been shortlisted in numerous international illustration and painting catalogs and awarded grants from Toronto Arts Council, Neighbourhood Arts Network and the City of Toronto. The stories she has illustrated, such as Arabian Nights, Ardavirafnameh (Zoroastrian Paradise, and Inferno) and Shahnameh (the epics of Iranian kings) convey mythical themes and are full of rich imagination. The stories that share their messages through magical realism or surrealism stimulate ideas for her because she is able to use them as a platform to illustrate what is beyond reality.


Tareq - musician holding a guitar in the streetTareq Gheri began playing guitar when he was 14 years old, influenced by the artistic environment that surrounded him in Damascus. Tareq focused on classical music until he was introduced to Flamenco music, then dedicating his musical practice to learning Flamenco and mixing it with traditional Arabic melodies to revive his own heritage while paying homage to another. After all the music Tareq loved vanished during the Syrian crisis, music again saved his life when he was jobless and living in exile after fleeing his home in Damascus in 2013, giving him new hope and a source of inspiration. Once in Toronto, Tareq decided to make a living through music, and notes he sees its effect on his family, friends, and fellow musicians and artists who are touched by the music and often also collaborate, adding their own touch to make the outcome richer and unique.


Siavash Kavehmaryan is an Iranian electronic-music composer/performer based in Toronto. He integrates technology and computer-assisted sounds in Iranian traditional music to explore novel sonic experiences in his quest to build a broader musical landscape, originating from a wider range of sounds and musical genres. His works transcend the compositional forms of Iranian traditional music and its instrumental gestures into the realm of wide-open synthesized music. Siavash graduated in Iranian Music Performance, specializing in kamancheh and daf, from the University of Art in Iran in 2011. He later became passionate about synthesized sounds and obtained his Master's degree in Music Technology from the University of Toronto (2019). He was a gold medalist at the second national Kamancheh Competition at University of Art. With more than a decade of experience playing solo and chamber music, he says a professional highlight is his solo performance of Mychael Dana’s score with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall.


Nour Kaadan - musician holding percussion instrument in front of brick wallNour Kadaan began learning percussion in 2011 in Damascus, Syria. Music allowed her to emotionally communicate, interact with others, step out of her boundaries and comfort zone, and learn new things about her potential and capabilities. Nour learned multiple variations of Flamenco, Arabic, and Western rhythms, which she then used in camps in Damascus and Lebanon, writing and playing music with children. She experienced how music can help children express their feelings, overcome trauma, and find commonalities with each other through making music, playing rhythms, and creating simple songs and beats. Nour is a core member of the Syrian-Flamenco band Diar, who create Arabic music infused with Flamenco flavour, an original genre that reflects the musicians' backgrounds and memories. Nour still inspires young people through music in the Music from Hope collective, a creative outlet where children can express their feelings, communicate through art to overcome trauma and break emotional barriers, and establish friendships by creating music collaboratively. They experiment with the process of making music with no limitations or boundaries.


Yannis Lobaina - woman holding a blue rockYannis Lobaina is a Cuban writer, filmmaker and storyteller based in Toronto. Yannis loves to explore themes of immigration, diaspora and motherhood through storytelling. She was a recipient of Neighbourhood Arts Network's 2018 RBC Arts Access Award. In 2017, she received a micro-grant for her short documentary “Where the Magic Happens,” her first work as an emerging filmmaker in Toronto. She has been working for more than a decade at the International School of Cinema, Radio, and TV (EICTV) as a director-producer, assistant director, script consultant and still photographer.




Melika Saeda - black and while profile of womanMelika Saeeda was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and graduated with an MFA in Graphic Design from Tehran Art University. Over the past 10 years, she has illustrated more than 30 children’s books in Turkey and Iran. Many of Melika's illustrations have also appeared in Iranian children’s magazines and books, and her artwork has been exhibited at book fairs in Iran, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. Her art is about telling stories that draw on her experiences as an Iranian artist. She is inspired by traditional Iranian methods of depiction, such as the narratives in Persian miniatures – tiny, ornate paintings that tell traditional stories. This visual tradition has inspired her own art practice and representational choices, which she explores through drawing, painting, lithography, and murals. "I am excited to join community arts initiatives here in Canada, now that I feel free to express myself in ways I could not before," Melika notes, adding she wants to draw on those traditional depiction methods and their narrative potential "to tell new stories that depict the full range of human diversity and that reflect on social justice while celebrating the freedom. Rather than simply commenting on life in Iran, however, I want to explore how these stories can be retold, made contemporary, and shared in a new culture."


Omid Shakib - man behind the cameraOmid Shakiba is a refugee filmmaker with 20 years’ experience working in the film industry in Iran, Iraq, the United Kingdom and now in Canada. He has directed and produced over 25 documentaries, docudramas, short fiction and experimental films, as well as TV ads, promos, and reports. He has also worked as assistant director on high-budget feature films and as cinematographer, camera operator, 1st & 2nd assistant camera, gaffer and assistant editor on various TV series, short films and music videos. As a university lecturer, he has taught documentary filmmaking, experimental and feature film, and digital cinema courses to undergraduate students for over four years. In July 2018, Omid was the recipient of a Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from Toronto Arts Council for one of his fiction short scripts. He holds a Master of Arts (MA) in Filmmaking from the University of Bradford in England.


Alice Il Shin - woman's profile Alice Il Shin is a Korean filmmaker who received her formal film training at Nihon University in Japan. Since then, she has worked in Japan, Korea, the U.S., and Canada as a director, producer, and editor. Her independent work has screened at the Cine Rail International Film Festival (France) and Jeonju International Film Festival (Korea), and has been showcased on major networks like Fuji TV (Japan).
Currently, Alice lives in Canada making independent films. Her most recent project follows a young immigrant living in Toronto – the film, Haru’s New Year, was supported by the Reel Asian International Film Festival, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Haru’s New Year recently received the Best Short Film Award from the Seoul Guro Kids International Film Festival (Korea), was screened at the Forest City Film Festival (Canada) as an opening night film, and also has been shown at the Hanoi International Film Festival (Vietnam) and Durham Regional International Film Festival (Canada). In May 2019, Haru’s New Year was programmed as part of Reel Asian’s May Asian Heritage Month School Tour and screened in 3 different schools across the GTA.


Namie Ueno - photo of woman in front of white wallNami Ueno grew up in a little town called Arashiyama, an important sightseeing district in Kyoto, Japan. Her first artistic experiences were with her grandfather, a self-taught artist and craftsman. At 15, she began formal art lessons with a local artist, and four years later entered the Kyoto University of Art and Design. Using delicate techniques and careful detail, Nami spends a long time with each painting, but approaches every work with childlike wonder. Her wide-ranging work bears many influences and references – the strange creatures creeping through 16th-century maps, the fantasies hidden in Northern European altarpieces, the symmetry and colour symbolism of religious art. Historically, such visions in art gave form to inner personal and collective yearnings or anxieties. Beyond their decorative beauty, the styles and sensibilities in Nami’s art are unified by a inner exploration in which her fairytale or narrative-themed works and her more overtly spiritual art each reflect this journey in different ways. Like dreams, these artworks look for a balance between fear and longing away from the materialist status culture of today, a truce between the often duelling aspects of our own selves; an alignment.


The second round of the RBC Arts Access Awards opens September 3rd, 2019.