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Skills Connect 2021 - Panelist and speaker bios



English session on January 28, 2021

English session on February 11, 2021 
French session on February 4, 2021  

English session on January 28, 2021

Veronica Johnny

Veronica JohnnyVeronica Johnny is a Nehiyaw/Dene/mixed, two-spirit, multi-disciplinary artist from Thebacha, Denendeh (Northwest Territories). She is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and presently lives in Northern Ontario. Veronica is a performer, workshop facilitator, visual artist, writer, musician, producer, manager and lead singer of multi-award nominated hard rock band, The Johnnys. She is also a solo singer-songwriter and Indigenous hand-drummer who shares teachings, hosts drum circles and sings for water and all life everywhere. Veronica facilitates workshops including art, performance, music industry, self-esteem and cultural gatherings. 

Nova Bhattacharya

Nova BhattacharyaNova Bhattacharya is an award-winning dancer, choreographer and cultural leader. Her creative inspiration is found in her Bengali culture, Bharatanatyam practice and Scarborough roots, as well as rock ’n’ roll, painting, photography, literature, film, nature and ritual. Her critically acclaimed dance works have toured Canada, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and Uganda. Her choreography has been commissioned by several dance and theatre companies, and she is the recipient of multiple awards and nominations for artistic achievement and contributions to community, including the 2012 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. Nova believes that dance expresses the essence of our humanity and has tremendous transformative power to bring us together.

Fatin Chowdhury

Fatin ChowdhuryFatin Chowdhury is a photojournalist, multimedia storyteller and organizer. His artistic practice focuses on documenting and examining the intersections of climate and racial justice with projects that explore and archive love, grief, loss and joy. Fatin is a photographer with Project Survival Media and has been featured in The Guardian, Briarpatch magazine, and The Independent. He has contributed photos and writing to 350.org, No One Is Illegal, Greenpeace Canada, UNEP, Samara Canada and the 4Rs Youth Movement. He has been working on his Master’s in Environmental Studies degree at York University and has taken on projects with community-based organizations including Made in Exile and Thorncliffe Park Women’s committee. Presently, he is the Development and Communication Manager at Black Creek Community Farm. 

Syreeta Hector

Syreeta HectorSyreeta Hector is a dance artist and educator in Toronto, Ontario. She has worked for internationally recognized companies like Adelheid Dance Projects, Danny Grossman Dance Company, Political Movement and Toronto Dance Theatre. She is a proud graduate of The National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and earned her Master of Arts in Dance Studies from York University. Her dance work called Black Ballerina focuses on the dualities within one’s identity, along with Syreeta’s blackness and indigeneity in relationship to classical ballet. This short solo piece gained recognition at the SummerWorks Festival and the Citadel Dance Mix in 2019. That same year, Black Ballerina won the Stratford Festival Lab Award for Research and Creation and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award. In November 2020, the full-length performance was successfully livestreamed under the direction of Barbara Willis Sweete and will be rebroadcast in the spring of 2021 through the Harbourfront Centre. Syreeta is currently one of the Luminato Artists in Residence for the 2020-2021 season.

Paulina O’Kieffe-Anthony

Paulina O'Kieffe AnthonyPaulina O’Kieffe-Anthony is an award-winning Toronto writer, playwright, performer, producer, arts educator and creative consultant. She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets and associate member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Her high-level accomplishments include being featured in When Sisters Speak on stage at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, co-producing the Spoken Soul Festival and representing Toronto as a two-time national team finalist in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. In 2019 she was a TEDx speaker in Oshawa, Ontario, and in 2020 an excerpt of her first play, How Jab Jab Saved the Pretty Mas, was featured as part of Piece of Mine Arts' Black Women in Theatre Festival. Paulina's work has been featured on Bell Fibe TV, Huffington Post Canada, AfroGlobal TV, Metro Morning and CBC Morning and has been published in three anthologies and one book. Paulina was recognized as one of 150 Black Women Making Herstory (as featured on CBC) for her contribution to building the arts scene in Toronto.

Yasmina Proveyer

Yasmina ProveyerYasmina Proveyer’s artistic career has involved music, dance, and drama and has taken her to different regions of the globe. Born in Havana, Cuba, she went on to earn a Master's diploma in Theatre Arts from the Beijing Central Academy of Drama and immigrated to Canada in 2008. Since 2011 she has been the manager for several musicians in the National Capital Region, and has been working as an arts administrator, a cultural connector and a producer of music shows and multidisciplinary events. Yasmina has participated in music industry conferences such as the World Music Expo (WOMEX) and Mundial Montreal. She is currently co-chair of the Juno Awards Committee in the World Music category. 
Since 2013, she has been a project leader for MDA Productions, a musical collective that promotes diversity. For over three years she was part of the programming team of SUNFEST (World Music and Jazz) Festival in London, Ontario, and most recently she was appointed to the programming team for Global Toronto 2021. In early 2019, she and Claudia Balladelli founded the Axé World Fest, an initiative that hosts concert series to promote and present world music artists in the National Capital Region.

Amar Wala

Amar WalaAmar Wala is a writer, producer and film director. His debut feature, The Secret Trial 5 (2014) was named one of the Top 10 Canadian documentaries of the decade by RealScreen Magazine. Working in both documentary and scripted formats, Amar’s work has screened around the world and received numerous awards here at home. He is known for his arresting visual style and empowering brand of storytelling, often using his cinema to deconstruct notions of race, class, and identity. He is currently writing his first scripted feature, which is in development with Telefilm Canada. A staunch advocate for BIPOC artists, Amar is also co-founder of the REMC (Racial Equity Media Collective), which uses data collection to remove barriers for racialized filmmakers.

English session on February 11, 2021 

Michelle Derosier

Michelle DerosierMichelle Derosier is Anishinaabe from Migisi Sahgaigan First Nation in Treaty 3 Territory in Northern Ontario who uses the art of storytelling to create social change. She is a mother, grandmother, artist, activist and filmmaker who is deeply rooted in her Anishinaabek philosophies and worldviews. Michelle has always lived and practiced in the north and has been making films for 15 years. Michelle’s art practice has focused on creating stories of healing and power for her family, communities and ancestral land. Her works have screened nationally and internationally at Sundance, MaoriLand, Traverse City, INDIANER INUIT: Das Nordamerika and ImagineNATIVE. Her first animated short, The Grandfather Drum, was selected to screen at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. In 2017, Michelle completed her first dramatic feature film, Angelique’s Isle, co-directed with Montreal filmmaker Marie-Hélène Cousineau. She directed an episode of Amplify, a 13-part documentary music series that aired on APTN in October 2020, and directed the short documentary Audrey’s Story, which is now screening internationally. Most recently, Michelle’s practice has expanded into performance art and creating works with birchbark.

Daniele Guevara

Daniele GuevaraDaniele Guevara is an award-nominated theatrical lighting designer whose creativity is accentuated by her interest in sculpture and technology. In November 2014, she was one of seven applicants to travel to the Banff Centre for the Arts to participate in the Convergence Lab, a residency focused on the intersection of art and interactive technology. Working both as an independent artist and within a team, she has created various interactive experiences including commercial projects and real-time live visuals for Toronto-based artists LAL, Maylee Todd, and Esie Mensah. Exploring a growing interest in interactive sculptures, her newest works examine transformational qualities of light to create shadows that compel multi-dimensional compositions. Her lighting installation, ‘Surround’’ was selected for the 2020 Winter Light Exhibition at Ontario Place. This outdoor festival was visited by thousands of patrons during February and March. Daniele is also in her fifth year working for the Canadian Opera Company, one of the largest producers of opera in North America. As Lighting Supervisor, Daniele oversees the technical execution of lighting designs for all productions. To date, she has worked on over 90 stage productions.

Bashar Lulu Jabbour

Bashar Lulu JabbourBashar Lulu Jabbour is an immigrant poet. He uses daily life to give a glimpse of the complexities of leaving one home for another. Bashar is a storyteller, and his stories are deeply personal. His poetry has been featured at many festivals in Canada including the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, Latitudes Storytelling Festival and Word on the Street. He has opened for Colombian American poet Carlos Andrés Gómez. Bashar is the artistic director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Poetry Slam and the poetry editor at Textile Magazine.

Sean Lee

Sean LeeSean Lee is an artist and curator exploring the notion of disability art and accessibility as the last avant-garde. Orienting towards a “crip horizon”, his practice gestures towards the transformative possibilities of a world that desires the way disability can disrupt. Sean holds a B.A. in Arts Management and Studio from the University of Toronto, Scarborough and is currently the Director of Programming at Tangled Art + Disability. He also is a member of the Ontario Art Council’s Deaf and Disability Arts and Access Advisory Committee and Toronto Art Council’s Visual Arts / Media Arts Committee.

Melody McKiver

Melody McKiverMelody McKiver’s musical work integrates electronics with Western classical music to shape a new genre of Anishinaabe compositions. Their most recent single, Debiinaawe Giizhigon, premiered in the fall of 2020 alongside a music video commissioned for the Amplify documentary series on APTN. Their debut EP, Reckoning, was nominated for an Indigenous Music Award. A frequent performer across Turtle Island, Melody has performed at the National Arts Centre, Luminato Festival, Vancouver’s Western Front and the Toronto International Film Festival. They have shared stages with Polaris Prize winners Lido Pimienta, Tanya Tagaq and Jeremy Dutcher, and performed with acclaimed filmmaker and musician Alanis Obomsawin. As a composer, Melody was commissioned by Soundstreams and Jumblies Theatre to write Odaabaanag, a piece for string quartet responding to Steve Reich’s Different Trains, drawing on interviews conducted with local elders. Melody was invited to the Berlinale Talents Sound Studio as a music and composition mentor for the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. A member of Lac Seul First Nation, Melody is also employed as a youth worker in Sioux Lookout (Treaty #3, Northwestern Ontario, Canada), providing mental health and cultural support to First Nations students. Upcoming projects include a film score for Returning Home, a documentary by Secwepemc director Sean Stiller, and a full-length album in 2021.

Esie Mensah

Esie MensahEsie Mensah is an award-winning artist whose creative footprint extends to many genres, disciplines and regions. As a dancer, choreographer, movement director and TEDxToronto speaker, Mensah brings her mastery in storytelling to audiences as diverse as her experience. She has worked with megastars like Rihanna, Drake and Arcade Fire and historic brands like Coca Cola, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, TIFF, ROM, Shaw Festival, Soulpepper Theatre and the Toronto Raptors. Despite her origins within dance, Mensah continues to evolve. Her recent digital short film, A Revolution of Love, follows a young Black woman as she grapples with the histories of her ancestors and the present-day violence ravaging her community. A featured speaker at TEDxToronto 2019, she spoke about her experience as a dark-skinned dancer and creating her Dora-nominated production, Shades.

V.T. Nayani

V.T. NayaniV.T. Nayani is a director, producer and screenwriter. She is an alumna of the CBC's Workshop for Diverse Creators, the HotDocs’ Doc Accelerator Program, and Reelworld Film Festival's Emerging 20 Program. She is also a recipient of the UN Women Yvonne M. Hebert Award for filmmakers and photographers. V.T. Nayani's artistic development has been supported by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, RBC, L'Oréal Paris and AWID. Her work has also been championed by festivals including TIFF Next Wave, Women of the World, Women Deliver, Insight Out, Regent Park Film Festival and Zanzibar International Film Festival. She is currently in post-production for her first dramatic feature, THIS PLACE (produced in partnership with Telefilm Canada's Talent to Watch Program) and is a 2021 Resident in the Directors' Lab at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), where she is developing her second feature film, SHAME. Since 2019, V.T. Nayani has proudly served on the board of Breakthroughs Film Festival, the only festival in Canada dedicated to showcasing short films by women and non-binary people.

French session on February 4, 2021

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