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Photographer's work celebrates Indigenous identity at Ryerson University

A new and powerful large-scale piece of art has been unveiled at Ryerson University's library. It's a photo by Nadya Kwandibens — a rising photographer who aims to capture contemporary Indigenous identity.

Nadya Kwandibens's large scale portrait will be on display at the library for 5 years

Photographer Nadya Kwandibens says she hopes the portrait hanging at the west entrance of Ryerson's library building provokes interest from students in Indigenous history and traditions. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Hanging above the west entrance of Ryerson University's library is a new piece of art that photographer Nadya Kwandibens hopes will spark a conversation.

"I want people to sort of look at it and say, 'What is she wearing?' Have those questions and find out more about Indigenous culture," Kwandibens said.

The portrait, which will be up at the university for the next five years, is part of a series by Kwandibens called Concrete Indians.

"It's essentially a series about decolonization, photographing sense of belonging and basically asks the question what does it mean and what does it look like to be Indigenous in the city," she told CBC's Our Toronto.

WATCH | Watch Talia Ricci's full interview with Nadya Kwandibens for CBC's Our Toronto:

Photographer's work celebrates Indigenous identity at Ryerson University

CBC News Toronto

5 months ago
4:22
Hanging above the west entrance of Ryerson University's library is a new piece of art that photographer Nadya Kwandibens hopes sparks a conversation. Talia Ricci learns the story behind the image. 4:22

The large-scale image at Ryerson shows dancer Tee Lyn Duke at Spadina subway station on her way to rehearse with her dance troupe. Kwandibens says Duke was often questioned about what she was wearing while riding the TTC, and that was why they chose the location.

"She said she always feels really empowered to be Anishinaabe  because of that," Kwandibens said.

Kwandibens says it's very meaningful to her that her work will be on display for thousands to see over the next few years.

"For younger generations to see that, students coming in and out, it's really empowering and it's powerful," she said, adding that her hope is to see more Indigenous photographers showcasing their talents.

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"Indigenous people are here. We always have been, right? So to presence ourselves more prominently within the community, within the city, is really exciting."

From Monday, Sept. 21 to Friday, Sept. 25, Ryerson University is hosting an online Indigenous Education Week, which will include its first digital pow wow and and online market.

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      About the Author

      Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She has travelled around the globe with her camera documenting people and places as well as volunteering. Talia enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find her reading or strolling the city with a film camera.

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