TD Arts Diversity Award Finalist Profile: Mahlikah Aw:eri

Re-Indigenizing Tkaronto through the Arts     

By: Parul Pandya         

Mahlikah Aw:eri has a genuine calling as an artist and arts educator: Re-Indigenizing existing cultural and social structures and reclaiming space to honour her ancestors. To her art is a tool for social change, and at its very essence “it is an act of creation, growing, pushing and creating tension.”

Within the contemporary context, Mahlikah recognizes her artistry enables an awakened perspective on equitably engaging with communities and individuals to advance truth and reconciliation, and the value of social justice. “As an Indigenous artist I acknowledge the barriers that have been lifted, but also continue to work from a place of honesty to inspire the next generation to continue this work.”

Inspiring and mentoring youth through her work as an individual artist and founder/general manager of Red Slam Collective, an indigenous hip hop fusion arts movement based in Tkaronto and formed in 2009 to offer workshops, musical projects, artist residencies and audience engaged performances “to uplift, self-identify and promote unity through Spoken, Lyricism which Arranges Meaning (SLAM).” Mahlikah deeply values providing opportunities for youth to learn about Indigenous values, learnings and experiences so that they can be enabled to succeed as the next generation of community leaders.

When asked about her future ambitions she shares that she hopes to release her first full length book and audio version of poetry. “As a part of Red Slam I see a couple more albums and creating more space for our music.” Following this she is envisioning a national and international tour for the collective.  

When reflecting on being a finalist for the TD Arts Diversity Award she said it’s incredible “knowing that people in the cultural arts community/community appreciate what I have been doing for a decade.” She feels motivated to be part of the next generation of Elders with a sense of urgency to continue teaching and inspiring others.



September 8, 2017:
Red Slam performs as a partner of Indigenous Arts Program at OCAD University. Theme “we are still here.”

September 23, 2017:
Red Slam is 1 of 4 artists performing to celebrate the opening of My City My Six at City Hall.

September 30, 2017
Red Slam performing to open Nuit Blanche with an opening set around The Rematriachion of Revolution.