Where Are All The British Asian Artists?

 

Why do I have to google “British Asian artists”? Why aren’t they alongside Damien Hirst in my education?

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Rupi Kaur- Spoken word Birmingham

“I’ve decided I’m only going to wear Indian designers on this tour”. This could be such a trivial decision for most, but for a woman who was ashamed to wear her native countries clothing in public, or hid the henna on her hands- this is rebellion.

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Spoken word is something I have glided across, but never fully delved into. Being in a room- of mostly brown women- sharing this experience of live poetry is something I never thought I’d see.

Kaur’s spoken word is full of pain and sensuality all at the same time. It explores a journey of life that most women can relate to. What is appealing about her is that she speaks about topics that would be unheard of is South Asian communities.

In the audience was a Sikh dad. This may seem like nothing. A father taking his child to a performance. However, performing arts is somewhat isolating to people of colour, both because it is dominated by white middle classes, and because in South Asian cultures, the arts aren’t seen as a feasible career or future to endeavour. This dad attending this event was a sign of progression in this community and Rupi Kaur’s voice and following is a step towards making the arts accessible and less intimidating to people of colour.

I speak from my own experience, in going to study sciences due to the pressure and disapproval of my art interest as a career in my community. I speak from being the only South Asian on my course, on several occasions. I speak from getting overly excited and going out of my way when there is an artist from the same background as me.

It’s been a long time coming, but South Asian women are creeping into the art world and as someone who has felt awkward about my place, it is exciting.

 

Scars

One aspect I have not addressed is the marking on my skin. This is something that I have not been too conscious of on a daily basis, however I will catch sight in a mirror in the morning, and depending on how delicate my mental health is on the day, it can set me up for a difficult one.

In an attempt to become more accepting of this part of my body I directed a shoot with friends taking photos. Despite being aware of how ‘disgusting’ my scarring would be to society, I had a ‘fuck it’ attitude and almost felt rebellious to feel this confident in my own skin.

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After reviewing the photos my confidence sank. You never know what you look like until afterwards and it made me question if this is how others see me?

I used to try to lean as far from the word ‘fat’ as possible, but maybe I am, and that shouldn’t be an issue because I’m a lot more than that too.

Sophie Mayanne- Behind the Scars

Sophie Mayanne is a British fashion/portrait photographer that has plegged to “no longer digitally manipulate bodies or skin in her photographic work”. I came across her work whilst looking through ‘body positive’ activists on Instagram and was instantly intrigued by the narrative her work comes with. In a similar style to “Humans of New York” I liked the context that was given alongside the photographs.

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The aim of her project “Behind the Scars” seems to be to eliminate the stigma that comes with scarring on the body and the ‘ugliness’ associated with it. One comment I found interesting is how in the media (film and television), scarring is used to indicate ‘evil’ in a character. The most famous example of this is The Joker, from Batman.

From small hardly noticeable scars to those that cover the body, these are personal signs of survival and beautiful in their own right. It is refreshing to see these beautiful and natural images creep their way into mainstream media, and hopefully one day this will just be the norm.

 

Nasty Women: Creative Debuts

On the 9th March 2018, I headed to a pre booked exhibition/event that I didn’t know much about- except it was called ‘Nasty Women’. The celebratory atmosphere and pride that filled the room was immense as it was full of people from all different backgrounds and ages celebrating what it means to be a woman.

What I found particularly impressive was the intersectionality of this event, as the work exhibited came from women that were different races, different social backgrounds and different ages.

Falling just after International Women’s Day, there was a heightened sense of unity and together-ness that I think added to the experience.

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Reclaiming sexuality after abuse

Sexual abuse has been something very significant lately in my life. I have seen someone change from owning her sexuality, to being afraid to express it.

Women are forced to be sexual beings from a young age, whilst simultaneously being shamed for it. Conform to these ideals, but don’t be confident- because that is a threat.

We live our lives afraid of upsetting men, and so we become targets for sexual harassment and abuse. Our clothing and appearance is used as an excuse and we are told we are ‘asking for it’, regardless of how promiscuous we are being.

Men can express their sexuality in a positive way, with no consequences, “how many birds have you shagged” is not an uncommon conversation to overhear, but why are women shamed for taking ownership of their own sexuality?

I collaborated with art student and friend, Emily Sanders, to create a series of images reclaiming female sexuality.

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Within this we wanted to create a scene of a woman who is owning herself and using phallic objects to mimic male genitalia. We considered using masculine clothing to do this, as it could be argued that this image is still appealing to the male gaze. However, why is lingerie seen as something for men, and not women? Why is it bad for a woman to see herself as a sexual being in the same way as a man? I see this image and I see power, and control from a female perspective, whereas males I have shown have found it uncomfortable and ‘weird’.

 

“Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” -John Berger

 

stop talking

I’ve decided to stop talking about race. Because saying you’re offended by a rape joke is understandable, yet, I have to explain my offence with a race one? It’s called solidarity. No, I’m not black, but if you’re happy to say the ‘n- word’, ‘p’ isn’t far along. Is taking my culture more important than me? It’s easy to see why it looks that way. Why do you want to wear a dot on your head so badly? Why is it more important than me?

Telling someone their behaviour is problematic does not equal to calling them a racist. Why do you have to make it about you? Why can you offend me by your behaviour but when I explain why it’s an issue I’m calling you a ‘racist cunt’. You are a product of your own ignorance and a society that is designed for you to succeed. And I don’t need to take that away from you.

Things I want to say to people

No, I don’t want to join the gym.

Please don’t comment on my food.

I didn’t know pizza was bad for me.

Thank you, I didn’t know I was short and fat.

When you call me little, I know you don’t mean my waistline.

Please don’t comment on my tits.

Would you fuck me if I was thinner?

Don’t comment on my body hair.

Why does my weight bother you so much?

Unit 3 thoughts

Moving forward from my last unit, I still am keen to explore the female form and women’s responses to their own bodies. I am interested in the aspect of sexuality, in regards to the taboo around it and the female body.

Harassment of women is something that I’m sure most can relate to or have an opinion on. Recently this has become a prominent aspect of my life, and my awareness to how women are treated in everyday life has heightened.

A powerful woman is seen as aggressive. A nice woman is ‘asking for it’. A girl who is confident in her body is a whore and one who is not has baggage.

I have been working closely with Emily and our work crosses paths in regards to themes. We want to reclaim our bodies from society- in particular, men.

To begin with I was exploring biological sounds the body makes and how to capture these as a part of the sound element required for this unit. I am happy with the recordings and my research into Foley, however I feel this sterile  and technical approach is leaving me feel disconnected to my work.

To progress, I am going to look at using spoken word in my work, either on its own, or to accompany moving image.