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Ai Weiwei, Handcuffs

AWW Free School: Documenting Dissent

Tue March 19, 2019 6:30PM - 10:00PM

Co-presented with Ken Moffatt, The Jack Layton Chair, and Melanie Panitch, The Director of The Office of Social Innovation, Ryerson University

Inspired by the exhibition Ai Weiwei: Unbroken, this unique series in collaboration with Ryerson University will transform the exhibition into a site for social action. Four interdisciplinary workshops, focused on documentary media, spoken word, performance, and online journalism, will be offered free with registration. These workshops, co-led by artists, facilitators, and writers, will activate the exhibition by connecting its themes to the practice of public citizenship.

March 5: Embodied Narratives
March 19: Documenting Dissent
April 2: Fake News
April 16: Extreme Music Therapy
June 4: AWW Free School Final: 6/4/89


6:30 – 7:30 pm: In-gallery workshop with Winnie Ng
7:30 pm: Doors open for documentary screening
8 – 10 pm: Feature-length documentary screening plus Q&A

Renowned labour rights activist and Ryerson University distinguished visitor scholar Winnie Ng leads an in-gallery workshop on dissent, democracy, and student activism. Following the workshop, delve into the invisibility of Canadian state violence with a documentary programme curated by writer, film programmer, and media artist Nataleah Hunter-Young.

Film Programme

Part and parcel to hiding state violence is silencing the past. But the tradition of documenting dissent in Canada has made that more difficult by preserving the narratives of witnesses and activists present at moments of struggle and moments of change. Dionne Brand and Ginny Stikeman’s 1991 documentary Sisters in the Struggle takes us inside the revolutionary work of Toronto’s Black Women’s Collective (BWC), remembered for their role in calling attention to the nationwide pattern of racist police violence and in leading national struggles against poverty and gender oppression. And in the late Rex Tasker’s Challenge for Change short doc Encounter at Kwacha House-Halifax witness Black and white youth in the 1960s discuss what it will take to finally bring an end to anti-Black racism in Halifax.

Nataleah Hunter-Young is a writer, film programmer, and PhD student in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University. Building on over 10 years’ experience as a youth worker and arts educator, her research explores the sociocultural impact of social media police brutality videos and opportunities for intervention through the arts. Nataleah has supported festival programming for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, the Durban International Film Festival (South Africa), and Toronto Outdoor Picture Show. She holds a Master’s of Social Work from Ryerson, and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Sociology from McMaster University.

Winnie Ng is a Labour rights activist and scholar with a deep commitment to anti-racism, equity and worker empowerment. She served as the Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy from 2011-2016. During her term, she created the annual Ryerson Social Justice Week, which has now become a Ryerson tradition. Winnie is a former union organizer with immigrant workers in garment factories and hotels. She served as regional director with the Canadian Labour Congress from 1998-2004. After years of activism, Winnie returned to the academy in 2006 and completed her PhD program at OISE/University of Toronto. Winnie currently is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar with the Faculty of Community Services at Ryerson University.  In her spare time, she volunteers with the International Domestic Workers Federation, which represents over half a million domestic workers worldwide.

About the exhibition

Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most influential artists and human rights activists, as well as one of China’s most formidable critics. Known for smashing conventions—and ceramics—with iconic works like Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, he upends the cultural traditions and materials of his native China.

This highly-anticipated and timely exhibition explores the breaking of boundaries, both physical and symbolic, and considers how the artist’s ceramic works form a basis for his ongoing exploration of urgent social justice themes, including immigration, freedom of speech, and the repression of dissent. Learn more

Presenting Sponsor

La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso

Exhibition Partners



Hal Jackman Foundation

Kim Spencer McPhee Barristers PC

AW Asia

Media Partner

Toronto Star

Programs Sponsor


AWW Free School Partners

Photo: Ai Weiwei, Handcuffs, 2012. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei’s studio