The Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum

A popular destination
Situated in a beautiful landscaped park not far from the Don Valley in Toronto, two radiant white buildings represent a favourite suburban landmark in the city. Admired for their exemplary architecture, the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre Toronto opened in 2014 as an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network, an international organization founded by the Aga Khan. Surrounded by neighbourhoods that are now home to a significant Muslim population, the city’s newest cultural institutions have become a popular destination. The unique complex is a welcoming oasis for newcomers to the city and for art-loving visitors from near and far.

Her Honour and the Governor General look at an exhibition on the moon at the Aga Khan Museum

Connecting cultures
The Ismaili Centre Toronto is one of six such institutions in the world. It provides engaging programs for local communities and offers space for spiritual reflection. The Aga Khan Museum is the first museum in North America dedicated to Islamic art. Its remarkable collection of objects spans three continents and over 10 centuries. In its spacious galleries, visitors learn about the artistic, intellectual, and scientific contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage. The museum’s inspiring temporary exhibitions and education programs are designed to promote mutual understanding by connecting cultures through the arts.

Visual stories
One of those programs invites 20 young newcomers from nearby communities, including Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park, to take part in the Fredric Roberts Photography Workshops. The program empowers students with a new skill, the art of telling visual stories. In 2018, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, Learning for a Sustainable Future, and the Aga Khan Museum challenged participants to explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through photography. The students covered topics such as food safety, gender equality, and environmental protection. Their diverse cultural perspectives offered visitors a glimpse into a younger generation’s views and hopes for the future. The result was Our Sustainable Future, a photography exhibition of the youth’s visual stories, mounted at the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite in Queen’s Park.

Guests look at the Our Sustainable Future exhibition on display at Queen's Park

An oasis on the hill
The Aga Khan Development Network works to improve living conditions and opportunities for many millions of people in the developing world. The network and its cultural arm—the Aga Khan Trust for Culture—have a longstanding relationship with Canada. Their latest development in Ontario represents the Aga Khan’s appreciation for our culture’s commitment to tolerance and pluralism. Local residents and visitors from around the world are delighted to spend time at the beautiful oasis on the hill—it is a place to celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of Ontario, and old and new cultures far beyond.

Group photo of artists and Her Honour at the opening of the Our Sustainable Future exhibition at Queen's Park

In 2017, I agreed to serve as honorary patron of the Aga Khan Museum. The fit between our two institutions is a natural one, for we both are invested in strengthening the ties that bind humanity.

At the time, I encouraged the museum to help raise awareness of the challenges we share as global citizens, and of quite possibly the best framework we have to address them: the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Our Sustainable Future is one of the museum’s responses to that challenge. Crucially, it represents the passing of the torch to a new generation of Canadians. I am grateful to the museum’s Director and CEO Henry Kim and his capable team for their leadership and vision.

Whether approaching subjects directly or in a more abstract way, the photos produced by the youth encourage us to see our province, and the wider world, in a new light. This is, in fact, exactly the type of thing we try do to in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office—offering a productive space for conversation, fostering empathy, and engaging all with challenging ideas.

By working in neighbourhoods and communities, the photographers have given us insight into how people are approaching the shared challenges we face as a society. They have taken to heart what the Sustainable Development Goals urge us to do: Think globally while acting locally.