Faria Firoz is the 2021 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s medal at the UFV. (University of the Fraser Valley)

Faria Firoz is the 2021 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s medal at the UFV. (University of the Fraser Valley)

Chilliwack UFV student awarded medal for promoting diversity, inclusion, reconciliation

UFV Lieutenant Governor’s Medal winner Faria Firoz uses art to advocate for justice

Faria Firoz of Chilliwack has only lived in Canada for five years, but she is already making a difference by using her art to communicate about social issues.

As she graduates with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, she is one of four artists featured in the Black Lives Matter social justice art project that launched on June 12 at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).

In recognition of her commitment to advocacy, Firoz is the 2021 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s medal at the UFV. The criteria for the medal includes student involvement in promoting diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation.

Originally from Bangladesh, Firoz moved to Canada with her husband Mynol Vhuiyan in 2016.

“I was looking into where to study art and received such good and detailed and organized advice from UFV academic advisor Paula Funk. It was life-changing. The education system is quite different than it is in Bangladesh, but after talking with Paula, I said ‘okay, I can do this.’”

She had studied art in high school in Bangladesh but was looking to do more. Her style is mostly semi-realist art, inspired by great artists such as Michelangelo and Caravaggio.

“I love how they are so realistic but also out of this world. I try to mimic that technique.”

Firoz takes that realist style and applies it to issues with a social justice theme.

“Most of my work takes a critical look at ongoing social, cultural, and political issues.”

Shelley Stefan, an associate professor in UFV’s School of Creative Arts, supported Firoz’s nomination for the Lieutenant Governor’s award.

“Faria’s participation in the Black Lives Matter creative social justice art project displays her commitment to the essential collaboration and unifying efforts needed to bring people together through creativity to support inclusion, diversity, reparation, poetic justice, and civic engagement,” says Stefan. “Her role in this project, alongside other Black, Indigenous, Mixed Race, and People of Colour, is a prime example of the type of bravery and leadership artists can embody toward the advancement of human rights in our communities.”

The Black Lives Matter social justice art project brought together four specially selected BIPOC artists to work with UFV professors Cherie Enns and Shelley Stefan and cultural mentor Desiree Dawson to paint canvas art that will spread awareness of and demonstrate support for the Black Lives Matter message through creativity.

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter art exhibit opens at UFV in Abbotsford

“When I saw the appeal for artists for the BLM project on the School of Creative Arts website I knew it was a perfect opportunity for me,” Firoz said. “I was interested in talking about social justice through my art and gaining experience in cultural issues and politics through this project has really pushed my practice. Working with the three other artists and our professors and mentors has been very helpful and educational. We all have different backgrounds and their point of view broaden my point of view.”

Firoz’s piece for the BLM project portrays the strength of the Black community through a portrait of a young woman with eyes blazing with the rage and anger within her.

“I am trying to show the strength it takes to keep the fight going,” she notes.

Firoz has been a standout student at UFV whose art practice deals with culture and identity. She has participated in numerous art exhibitions over the past few years. Her painting “Hurricane” is published in the Hebrew Learning for 8th Graders. She has designed multiple book covers for Ruddur Publications and is currently working on children’s book illustrations.

Prior to coming to UFV, she completed her Advanced Levels in Arts and Design from Cambridge International Examinations.

She plans to continue her art education by pursuing a master’s degree, and would like to teach art for a career, in combination with her own practice.

“Canada is a great country for artists,” she notes. “I feel so supported and encouraged.”

As for winning the Lieutenant Governor’s medal?

“It is a very unexpected honour. To be recognized and appreciated at such a high level is something I never would have imagined. I am so grateful.”

Fraser Valley