Shani Mootoo

1958 | Dublin, Ireland
Shani Mootoo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Ramesh Pooran

— Shani Mootoo

Canadian visual artist, novelist, and poetess.

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, raised in Trinidad and arrived in Canada at the age of nineteen. She graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1980 and began a career as a painter and video producer. Her painting, photographic and film work reveals deep suffering, and has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide. She turned her personal experience as a child victim of sexual abuse into a creative strength. Recurring themes in her work are identity – generally multiple – gender issues, ethnic origins, and overcoming trauma. Her transition from the visual to the literary world came as a result of her process of acceptance and ability to write about her experiences. Her first collection of short stories, Out on Main Street, was published in 1993, and her first novel, Cereus Blooms at Night, came out three years later and was nominated for the 1997 Giller Prize. She became a writer in residence at the University of Alberta and published her second novel, He Drown She in the Sea in 2005, followed by Valmiki’s Daughter in 2009.


Her career as a multimedia artist also illustrates her personal experience, particularly in the case of her activist videos on sexuality and gender in the 1990s (Her Sweetness Lingers (still), Wild Woman in the Woods (still)). She has also engaged in painting and visual arts, producing series devoted to Canada, and more specifically to a macroscopic approach to nature and its ephemeral and changing character. Her attention focuses on details (Smoke Tree Leaf), revives tensions between cityscapes and wild landscapes in her series Canadian Landscapes, and lingers over the notion of identity by photographing aquatic depths and their reflections, like markers of history and its secrets.

Élodie Vignon & Camille Duhautbout

Extrait du Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque

© 2018 Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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