“I had never drawn before, I barely knew how to write, but I had a whole world in my mind asking me to picture the plants.” Rodríguez, a Nonuya Elder, translates his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and trees in his homeland, the Igara Paraná River region of the Amazon, into highly detailed drawings, writings, and books. Rodríguez came to drawing as a means of sharing the life cycles of plants as well as their uses for both people and animals, including healing. “I learned about the forest the hard way: I had to be awake for long hours at night, I had to lend my ears to the elders and make special diets. Our learning was a spiritual process; that is why we consider knowledge as very valuable.”

Abel Rodríguez is the recipient of the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art Prize, awarded to recognize an artist’s outstanding contribution to the Biennial.


Abel Rodríguez (Nonuya, born in Cahuinarí region, Colombia; lives in Bogotá, Colombia) is a sage from the Nonuya ethnic group from the Cahuinarí River in the Colombian Amazon. Rodríguez has extensive ancestral knowledge of regional plants and ecosystems, transmitted to him through generations. In the 1990s, Colombian armed conflict displaced Rodríguez from his native territory, and as a way to preserve his legacy, he creates drawings that represent cultural myths and personal memories. Now in his 70s, he is considered one of the most important living artists in Colombia.


  • Accessibility

    Small Arms Inspection Building

    Accessible entrance and washrooms
    AODA compliant building
    Accessible parking

  • Getting There

    Small Arms Inspection Building

    By Public Transportation:

    GO Transit: From Union Station, take the Lakeshore West GO Train to Long Branch Station (runs every 15 minutes), then walk 12 minutes to SAIB.

    TTC: The 501 streetcar travels west along Queen St to Lake Shore Blvd, ending at the Long Branch Loop – a 12 minute walk to SAIB.

    By Car: Take the Gardner Expressway W, then use the middle lane to take exit 139 toward Brown’s Line. Keep left, follow signs to continue onto Brown’s Line. Continue straight, then make a slight right onto Lake Shore Blvd W. Turn left at Dixie Rd/Peel Regional Road 4 N.