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Canada’s leading contemporary outdoor and online art fair

July 12 – 14, 2024.

Get to know Mahir Siraj Recipient of 2022 – Best of Student Award

Mahir Siraj’s work manifests his sense of wonder, curiosity and dedication to diving into the past to create new work for the present. He is the recipient of TOAF61 Best of Student Award. As part of this award, Mahir has received the Marie Collins Memorial cash award of $1,000 and the Artscape Award ($2,500 Value). COMMENTARIES, Mahir’s first solo exhibition, opens on November 12, at Artscape Youngplace Hallway Galleries.

This solo exhibition opportunity is an integral part of this award, along with a residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point that Mahir completed this past Summer. We are grateful to Artscape and the Collins family for their support of TOAF student artists. 

We hope you enjoy learning more about Mahir, his inspiration and why he was selected for this award in today’s newsletter. We also hope to see you at his exhibition. 

Finally, a few works we featured on our Instagram and Curated Collections last week found new homes. Thank you for keeping the love coming for our artists.

PS. Artists! Save December 1st in your calendars for 2023 Call for Artists.  

Meet Mahir Siraj

Mahir is an Eritrean-born artist who lives and works in Toronto. He is currently studying drawing and painting at OCAD University. Mahir employs the use of metaphors and symbols to investigate the relationship between memory and meaning in the context of personal and social identities. Through the series of works themed “Allegories“, he creates a visual language that delves deeper into his personal and metaphysical inquiries.

Mahir Siraj at TOAF61 at Nathan Phillips Square, July 2022. Photography by Shane Fester.


From the award judge

Mahir Siraj’s works embody a sense of curiosity and experimentation all whilst referencing art history, existing mythologies, and other academic topics of research. Though we might be inclined to conclude that the latter is a testament to Mahir’s dedication to the arts, it is important to note that Mahir pushes beyond these canons by conceiving and incorporating his own visual language. In doing so, Mahir creates new meanings from his selected symbols, thus encouraging us to venture into meaning-making as well.

– Jacqueline Kok, Nancy McCain & Bill Morneau Curatorial Fellow at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

On Causality, Mahir Siraj, 2022, Acrylic on canvas


Mahir on the award

As a first-time participant at the Fair, getting such an award is a well-needed boost to my overall progress as an artist. As a student who aspires to fashion out a career out of my art practice, the award helped me see the future in a promising way.

Allegory of VacillationMahir Siraj, 2022, Acrylic on canvas. Still available at

Allegory of Fright, Mahir Siraj, 2022, Acrylic on canvas


Share some fun facts about you

When I was 4, I had a babysitter who frequently visited a church. One day, she took me with her to the St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Addis Ababa which was close to our home. As it was my first time being in a church, I was overwhelmed by the architecture, paintings, and stained-glass windows. I always consider this moment to be the spark that ignited my interest in visual art.

Who is your dream artist to collaborate with?

I have always wanted to collaborate with the Eritrean artist Ermias Ekube. Throughout the years of my art practice, Ermias has played a significant role in my progress both as a mentor and a friend. He has been and still is one of the artists I would consider myself fortunate to collaborate with.

View more of Mahir Siraj’s works 

Throwback Curated Collections

Ray of Sunshine
Curated by Shellie Zhang

Twists to Shapes Choker, Hoi Yi Lai, 2022, Sterling silver. Still available at

Botanical Coffee Table, Stephanie Singh, 2022, Florals and resin. Still available at

View Ray of Sunshine 

Save the date! The Call for Artists opens on December 1st, 2022.
Artists can choose to participate:

  • 3 Days at Nathan Phillips Square & the Online Fair, or
  • Toronto Online Art Fair

Early Bird Deadline: February 28, 2023 (11:59 PM)
Final Deadline: March 7, 2023 (11:59 PM)


Call for Artists Instagram Live

November 17th, 3:00 PM

Join the TOAF team on Instagram live to answer your questions about the application process or the Fair.

Learn more 

Funders & Sponsors

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