2018 Cohort

Adia Nesbeth | She/Her

Adia was born in Toronto, though many of her formative years were spent in Brampton and Barrie, Ontario. From a young age, she could be found with her nose in a book or a sketchbook in hand. Although well rounded in her educational interests, studying language and visual arts remained paramount throughout elementary school and high school. Having the opportunity to dabble in many mediums including plaster, water colour, pastel and mixed mediums, led her to appreciate the boldness of acrylic paints. She combines surrealist symbolism with bright colours and textured brush strokes to create dreamy self-portraits.

Art has been a language of healing, not only by channeling negative energy into positive work, but by indirectly addressing uncomfortable truths. Themes of trauma, anxiety and depression evolve into opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Adia’s goal is to communicate a journey to self-actualization in each piece of work. For her, it is less about the specific circumstances surrounding a body of work, but rather the emotional ties that come with those experiences. She believes no matter how bleak the story, there is a lesson to every setback.


My Life In Boxes By Adia Nesbeth

Setting: No Place Like Home:

Moving around a lot meant that home was rarely an address. Some of my stuff isn’t even taken out of the box before I’m packing once again. This gave me a constant feeling of isolation, unsettlement, social anxiety and sometimes emotional detachment. I used to try to convince myself that I didn’t need people anyway, that I was better off on my own with my books.

by: Adia Nesbeth

Conflict: Reflecting Expectations:

Conflict: Reflecting Expectations: Due to social anxiety, an aversion to conflict and a need for a semblance of control in my life, I rarely challenged anyone. As a result, I rarely did anything for myself. I reflected what I felt others wanted me to be and in truth I really only defined myself and validated my success, my goodness, through people around me. These were the boxes I had to check off to be ‘perfect’.

By: Adia Nesbeth

Conflict: Everything Is Gray:

After my parents split up, and I moved once again, I lost my support group of friends, my home and my family dynamic shifted. There were a lot of changes in my last year of high school and my grades definitely suffered. By the time I reached my first year of university, my anxiety was paired with clinical depression. Not only was I far from ‘perfect’, I wasn’t even ‘just okay’. Not being able to shake off this ‘funk’ felt like the greatest fail of all.

By: Adia Nesbeth

Turning Point: Gaining Perspective

Turning Point: Gaining Perspective: When someone asked “What are you most proud of?” or “What is your greatest accomplishment so far?”, I realized I couldn’t claim anything that was truly mine. That’s because I was just letting life happen to me instead of being proactive. I was so caught up in maintaining control of my environment, I never took a chance on anything out of fear of failure. Now I know in order to be happy, I needed to push myself out of my own comfort zone and challenge other people and their expectations of me as well as the expectations I put on myself. The point is not to be perfect, to avoid failure, but to learn

By: Adia Nesbeth

Resolution: My Toolbox:

There is an ongoing process of self-empowerment that I am still working through and part of that process required a change in perspective. I’m proactively choosing to channel my creativity and seizing opportunities to try new things and broaden my worldview. When I’m feeling down or anxious, because yes I do still get there sometimes, I now have the resources to do it.

by: Adia Nesbeth


Sade Petlele | They/Them

Sade Petlele is a 24 y/o black queer and non-binary person living in Toronto, Ontario. Sade creates work using make up to express their blackness, queerness and love of simple graphic art and sketching (using their face as a drawing page). This photoset shows their personal journey using make up and hair for self-expression, connection with their mother, and self-care.

This project explores black make up and adornment and how these things are incorporated into personal growth, specifically how it can help someone cope with mental health issues and dealing with change. It also looks at how these skills are passed down through black families, and how this passage of skills connects us.


A Look: 1998

Image of my first “makeup”, my mom would sometimes let me wear a little bit of her dark red lipstick and vaseline to make it shiny. Only on special occasions. But it was something I always really wanted. The picture also references the first few times I can remember doing makeup and beauty stuff with her. Sometimes I would watch do her makeup, what I thought was “real makeup”, and I would put on my (her) lipstick next to her. These early experiences is where my love for beauty first began.

Mom’s Necklace

As I got older, my mom gave me more freedom to express style and beauty. She gave me the necklaces in this image a year before my family moved to South Africa from Atlanta. Her style continued to influence me, the things she gave me shaped my look today. The designs of the necklaces inspired the dots, triangles, intense graphic designs of my make up.


Moving to a different country was really hard, I was young and pretty shy so I found it hard to make new friends. This picture was of my South African ID Book which I got a few months after moving. Everything was different (language, the laws, culture, people) and I always felt tense, anxious eventually really depressed. I included my favorite necklace in the picture, even though it was from South Africa, I connected it to living back in Atlanta where things were less lonely and stressful. I held onto familiar items like this during this stressful time. Doing my makeup helped distract me from low depressive episodes, I started learning how to do eyeliner during this time.


Over the last 10 years, makeup became a skill. I still do it during intense depressions. It used to be something that I was new to and had a few methods and supplies. As time passed my ability grew, and my makeup collection grew to reflect all the new and different things I’d learned. Lipstick (towards the back of the picture) and vaseline (not seen in this picture) is still a staple though.


The last image builds on everything I’ve learned so far about my personal style/expression, makeup skills and identity. This is usually what my makeup looks like today. I’ve named it growth because I represent all the ways I’ve grown with makeup as well as dealing with mental health issues.

Shenikqwa Idona Phillip | She/Her

Shenikqwa Idona Phillip is a child of the African continent and Diaspora, a student, a Gardener, a Sister, Daughter, lover of her community and still learning more about herself everyday . Her journey thus far has been a bumpy one, she wants her art to show the importance of vulnerability and creating community.

During times of distress, social media became a healing space for Shenikqwa. She was able to meet amazing people and learn/unlearn things about herself. Even with the internet being a public space, she was able to have very private and reflective moments that encouraged her to want to share her own story. She soon came to the realization that there were so many people sharing their stories but not many of them looked like her. She wants Black folks to look at her journey and know that they are not alone, that it is possible to create even when you’re not okay. Shenikqwa truly believes that creating from these kind of spaces (spaces of trauma, hurt and pain) can be the very thing that centres us in our healing.


Sankofa: “Reach back and get it”; Recognizing the importance of learning from the past


Unknown, Hope


Confusion, Pain, Grief, Hope


Solitude; Hope


Sankofa; Hope


Growth, Breakthrough, Moving forward, Hope