For the first time in its history, the storied Simcoe Hall hosts a long-term installation of contemporary photography from the university’s permanent collection foregrounding some of today’s most respected Indigenous artists from across Canada, spanning several generations. Traditionally, Simcoe Hall displays portraits of leaders who shaped the University of Toronto’s development over nearly two centuries. In a significant gesture acknowledging the importance of making space for Indigenous voices and presence, these portraits have been moved aside to make way for works of art that honour Indigenous continuity and resilience in confronting the colonial occupation of the land.
The works included in this project bear testimony to the past and persistent intentions of colonization, its imprint on the land, reverberations in the body, and impact on contemporary life. Summoning matrilineal lines of solidarity and fortitude, they also attest to indomitable Indigenous resistance and resurgence. Drawing strength from familial, social, and beyond-human relations, some of the artists create self-portraits that emphasize their inextricable networks of connections. An equally central motif is the reckoning with the depths of historical and ongoing trauma, as colonial violence is surmounted by summoning an enduring and restorative love among community. Throughout the exhibition, portraiture elicits a re-imagining of Indigenous self-determination and strength in defying settler oppression.
Together, these works harness the power of symbolic redress within the photographic image, offering layered accounts of the land upon which the University of Toronto operates and the vaster territory that continues to be the home and meeting place of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. As chroniclers, creators, and interpreters, artists bring to light important stories, disrupt dominant discourse, and reframe the understanding of history. In these artists’ hands, the camera becomes a world-making instrument, linking narratives across time and place, and offering new points of engagement and connection.
Visiting and Public Programming Information:
The installation is accessible to the public by appointment. Please contact Melody Lu at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan group tours or register for scheduled guided visits.