What we know to be true: Zahra Baseri, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, and Arshia Salesi

What we know to be true
Zahra Baseri, Yasmeen Nematt Alla, and Arshia Salesi

March 30 – May 11, 2019
Opening Reception: March 30, 2019 from 2:00-4:00 pm

Artists have always found creative ways to question, clarify, make fun of, and criticize dominant narratives and power structures. What we know to be true features works by three artists who complicate and challenge the status quo. Zahra Baseri takes aesthetic inspiration from traditional Persian miniature paintings to create contemporary miniatures depicting the entangled relationships between the oil industry, corrupt politics, and women’s oppression in the Middle East. Yasmeen Nematt Alla’s practice draws on her experiences working as a translator for Syrian refugees. Using a text-based approach, Nematt Alla reveals injustices in the Canadian system intended to protect and support refugees. In her multimedia constructions, Arshia Salesi abstracts and deconstructs letters from the Farsi language to encourage multilingual legibility, challenging the dominance of the English language. The artists in What we know to be true reveal, critique, and oppose oppressive and unjust power dynamics, ranging from the mistreatment of women and refugees under state protection, to the subtleties of social influence granted based on language fluency.

This exhibition is accompanied by a critical essay written by Joy Xiang, which can be downloaded HERE.


Zahra Baseri was born and brought up in Iran. She came to Canada with an engineering degree, but decided to pursue fine arts. Currently she is an MFA candidate at University of Waterloo focusing on drawing and sculpture. She received the Ontario Graduate Scholarship in 2018, and was Manitoba’s provincial winner for BMO 1st Art! in 2016. Baseri describes her artistic practice as both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. Her subject matter is positioned from a feminist perspective, engaging with religious, cultural, and sociopolitical issues.

Yasmeen Nematt Alla is an Egyptian-Canadian artist with a BA in Fine Arts and Business from the University of Waterloo. She immigrated to Canada when she was fifteen and continues to grapple between the diaspora of her identity and the switching that occurs when she assumes either her Egyptian or Canadian identity. Her practice stems from her experiences as an immigrant, visible minority and her attempts at becoming a translation medium of the marginalized within her community.

Arshia Salesi received her BFA from OCAD University, and completed an exchange at Hunter College, New York. Her works use the visual languages of Iranian Modernist painting, as well as Minimalist painting. She investigates illegibility through a text-image relationship that create abstractions from Farsi language. Her work explores painting’s ability to expand three-dimensionally, both as constructions and into site-specific paintings. Salesi’s practice engages with ideas of transculturality, Orientalism and language through a non-hierarchical approach.

Joy Xiang is an arts writer, poet and cultural worker based in Toronto. She researches and engages themes of migration, desire, material flows and media nostalgia/futurity. Her critical texts, reviews and poetry have been published in venues like Canadian Art, KAPSULA, Looseleaf and Mercer Union.

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