2019 RBC Space Award Recipients

The 2019 RBC Space Award recipients are: 

image of woman in front of an illustration of a boy. The woman is reading a bookSahar Abdallah is an award-winning illustrator of children’s books who has worked with various publishers in MENA region. She finds her inspiration in her cat, and loves working with the medium of collage. Sahar wrote and illustrated Fanoun's Tales (Egypt, 2012) and I Found a Home-Tout the Flea (Egypt, 2014), which were nominated for Shaikh Zayed prize. Her third book Life is Love, Not War was published by Al Banan-Lebanon (2017). Sahar was awarded the state incentive prize for illustration (Egypt, 2012), was a runner-up for the Mahmoud Kahila Award in 2017, and also nominated for Arabic 21 award that same year. Recently, Sahar was awarded Etisalat's Best Illustration award by UAEBBY-UAE. She has held four solo exhibitions: Children and Stories (2009), A Painting and a Book (2012) and Scribbles (2014). Her fourth exhibition, 2018's Visual Poems, was held in Toronto. Sahar has also participated in various group exhibitions, including Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, Abu Dhabi Book Fair, and the CANSCIAP art show in Toronto.

close up of woman's face looking straight to the cameraTenzin Desel was born into a family of political refugees, where her mother instilled the love of art history from an early age. She later graduated from prestigious Stroganov Moscow Academia of Industrial and Applied Arts, where she specialized in architecture, industrial design, interior design, and painting. Despite the many barriers faced due to her family’s prosecuted status, Tenzin earned a Master of Fine Art (MFA). During this time, Tenzin was invited by the Dalai Lama to study religious painting in India with Tibetan refugees at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala. She dedicated the next 28 years to studying Buddhist paintings, philosophy, architecture and ancient Buddhist language. Tenzin’s experiences include working on a Tibetan costume for Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun (1997), Brave Festival (2018), Festival of Risk and Failure (2018), On future: Words and Images at Toronto Centre for the Arts (2019), Geography of Belonging exhibit at Newcomer Day at Toronto City Hall (2019), and the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (2019). Tenzin will also be part of Toronto Arts Council's Artist in the Library program at the Toronto Public Library this year. She was also a 2018 RBC Arts Access Fund recipient and received a certificate from the City of Toronto's Art Connections program last year. Tenzin feels at her best and most harmonious with her surroundings when engaged in art-making, whether drawing or painting. She gets inspiration from by City of Toronto arts programs and discovering the amazing cultural heritage of Toronto, and is eager to learn to make a contribution to the culture of her new home city.

portrait photograph 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 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.

photograph of man in front of door holding a classical guitar.Tarek Ghriri 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, 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 – they often also collaborate, adding their own touch to make the outcome richer and unique.

headshot of woman looking straight onto the cameraMelika 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."

image of woman in her art studio. She is looking straight onto the cameraAndrea Vela Alarcón is a Peruvian community artist and a self-taught illustrator. Her art is based on creating platforms where underrepresented communities, centering underserved youth and Indigenous folks, can express themselves and shape discourses around them through engaging with different storytelling tools, including documentary and zines. As an illustrator, Andrea’s work is inspired by Amazonian culture and is influenced by the naïve genre. She gets inspiration from folk culture, femininity and nature. Through illustration, Andrea creats her own mythology and memory, maintaining the connection with her homeland the Amazon. She has been working as a community artist since 2009. After moving to Toronto in 2015, she facilitated various workshops for newcomer youth (Koffler Gallery), LGBTQ+ (TAIS) and street-involved communities (Margaret's). In Peru, Andrea has exhibited her work in different regions and has collaborated with various small businesses. She published her first children’s book through a Chinese publishing house (2012). In Toronto, she has had three collective exhibits thus far, and has participated in different fairs, including City of Craft and Canzine. Andrea has recently received the Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from Toronto Arts Council (2018), and the RBC Arts Access Award from Neighbourhood Arts Network (2018). Andrea is currently developing The Allegra Project, a lifestyle brand highlighting Latin American culture.