Fonds F0522 - Desh Pardesh fonds

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Desh Pardesh fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Sound recording

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Physical description

2.8 m of textual materials
249 photographs : b&w and col. ; 28 x 35.5 cm or smaller. - 23 negatives, 35 mm. - 6 slides, mounted. - 38 prints.
3.9 m of moving images (148 video cassettes : VHS and Betacam, PAL, NTSC)
3 computer disks
57 audio cassettes
7 compact disks

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Archival description area

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Administrative history

SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) is the only non-profit, artist-run centre in Canada dedicated to supporting South Asian artists. For over two decades, SAVAC has increased the visibility of culturally diverse artists by curating and exhibiting their work, providing mentorship, and facilitating professional development.

Our mission is to produce programs that explore issues and ideas shaping the identities and experiences of people from the region and its diasporas. We encourage work that is challenging, experimental and engaged in critical discussions that offer new perspectives on the contemporary world.

SAVAC develops and produces a range of contemporary visual art interventions and programs. We work without a gallery space, and typically in collaboration with other artist-run centres, public galleries and visual arts organizations. This unique, collaborative model allows for SAVAC to play a vital role in Canada’s visual arts ecology by expanding the frameworks that support culturally diverse perspectives in art.

1987 Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto is founded. Khush has an active membership of around 100 people, with a mandate to “educate South Asian gay men and the wider gay community about South Asian culture, as well as to forge connections amongst the South Asian community, South Asian cultural producers/artists, and the gay community”.

1988 Khush and Gay Asian Toronto organize “Unity Among Asians,” a conference for Asian lesbians and gay men in North America.

1989 Members of Khush organize SALAAM TORONTO, a one-day celebration at the 519 Community Centre, featuring arts, literature, food, culture, games, and performance, drawing a crowd of around 800 people.

1990 Khush hosts Khalla (later to become Desh Pardesh), a three-evening event of video and film, music and dance, hosted at Euclid Theatre, “intended to provide a forum for South Asian artists” aiming to “incite dialogue […] and to begin an interrogation of what South Asian culture is”. (Clara Thomas Archives)

1990 Festival undergoes name change from Khalla Festival to Des/Pardes or Desh Pardesh.

1992 Desh lengthens and broadens programming, funding and staffing, and includes film/video, poetry/fiction, theatre/performance, dance, live music, DJs, non-fiction/criticism/journalism, visual art/photography.

1993 Desh is established as a permanent organization with a small membership fee and working board.

1993/94 A group of visual artists who had been working together to curate the visual arts component of Desh, come together to form South Asian Visual Arts Collective (later to be named the South Asian Visual Arts Centre, or SAVAC)

1994 Desh and ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention) are incorporated as non-profit organizations.

1997 SAVAC is formally established as an artist-run centre, working in close collaboration with Desh.

2001 Desh Pardesh festival and its administrative body are closed, due largely to the financial crisis.

2001 SAVAC is provincially incorporated.

2004 SAVAC celebrates its 10th anniversary.

2008 SAVAC changes its name from South Asian Visual Arts Collective to South Asian Visual Arts Centre to more accurately reflect its organizational purpose and structure as an artist-run centre. In this year, SAVAC also becomes federally incorporated and celebrates its 15th anniversary.

2009 SAVAC is awarded charitable status.

2013 SAVAC is awarded multi-year the Ontario Trillium Foundation funding for a project that will involve the creation of an archive that traces the history of SAVAC as an organization, and the people and groups that preceded it.

2014 SAVAC celebrates 20 years of existence and 10 years of Monitor: South Asian Experimental Film + Video program.

For more information see: .

Name of creator


Administrative history

Desh Pardesh was a multidisciplinary arts festival dedicated to providing a venue for underrepresented and marginalized voices within the South Asian diasporic community, particularly left wing and queer South Asian artists and academics. It operated from 1988 to 2001. The organization's mandate states: "Desh Pardesh is lesbian and gay positive, feminist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti caste/classist. Desh exists to ensure that the voices and expressions of those constituencies in the South Asian community which are systematically silenced are provided with a community forum. In particular: independent artists, cultural producers and activists who are women, lesbians and gays, people with disabilities, working class people and seniors." Founded in the late 1989, the festival was originally conceived as "Salaam Toronto!" and administered by Khush, an association of South Asian gay men in Toronto. This day-long festival was held at 519 Community Centre in May, 1988. The Khush committee later developed into a coalition-based organizing committee to administer the newly named Desh Pardesh, which was held in March 1990, and was co-sponsored by Khush and The Euclid Theatre. Desh Pardesh was incorporated as a non-profit organization on April 7, 1994. In addition to organizing an annual summer conference and arts festival (featuring film screenings, workshops, issue-driven seminars, spoken work and literary readings, music, dance and performance art pieces), Desh Pardesh also hosted periodic arts development workshops, community outreach seminars, mini-festivals, art exhibits, and film retrospectives. It also served as a resource centre and referral service to various South Asian community groups and artists, cultural organizations and activists. In later years, Desh Pardesh worked in close collaboration with SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Collective). The Desh Pardesh festival and its administrative body closed in 2001 due to a financial crisis.

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Administrative history

Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto was founded in 1987. The group organized meetings for queer South Asians, and later broadened their membership to include women, becoming Khush: South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association. Remaining active until 1998 the organization ran a variety of queer South Asian community events, one being the annual Desh Pardesh (until 2001), spotlighting South Asian culture, art, and politics. In 1989 Khush founded the first South Asian gay and lesbian newspaper in Toronto, and Avec Pyar, a quarterly zine.

For more information see: .

Custodial history

Following the dissolution of Desh Pardesh, the records of the festival's activities remained in the custody of SAVAC, the South Asian Visual Arts Collective. Many of the members of SAVAC were former participants and board members of Desh Pardesh. The records were deposited by the Executive Director of SAVAC at the Clara Thomas Archives of York University in May 2007.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the administrative records, artist submissions, promotional material, fund raising, financial and operational records of the Desh Pardesh organization relating to its annual conference and arts festival and its year-round events related to South Asian youth, women's issues, fund raising, community development and anti-racist efforts. In addition to administrative records, the fonds also includes the submissions of local and international South Asian artists, dancers, film makers, poets, playwrights, photographers and other performers, including audio-visual, photographic and written material, as well as promotional packages and brochures. Fonds is arranged into 11 series.

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No discernible order, archivist imposed an order on the material and created series and file titles based on the functions and formal organization of the Desh Pardesh administrative committees.

Language of material

  • Bengali
  • English
  • Hindi
  • Tamil
  • Urdu

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Access to some series has been restricted. Please see the series-level descriptions for more specific information.

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The fonds comprises the following accessions: 2007-042, 2007-043, and 2017-014. No further accruals are expected.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2007/10/01 Anna St. Onge:. (Creation)
2007/10/01 Awaiting review by the Data Collection Archivist
2008/02/25 Added materials from Accession 2007-043 to extent (audio cassettes, 4 video recordings, small extent of textual records) and revised the series level descriptions to include sound recordings.
2008/02/29 Anna St.Onge. Revised access restrictions.
2008/11/26 Dubeau. Added URL for online finding aid.
2014/07/22 Migrated to AtoM.
2016/09/25 A. St.Onge. Revised authority records, edited file level descriptions, published.
2019/12/06 KCP. Post-migration metadata clean-up. Addition of GMD, accession numbers, and access notes for material stored off site. Published description and generated finding aid.

Language of description

  • English


Accession area