Following the announcement of our brief in October, we invited South Asian artists to submit their artistic interpretations for our final theme: The Power of Your Heritage. Ten artists were selected from a wide number of submissions to receive a £500 grant and have their work displayed on outdoor billboards across the month of December.
Today we take a deeper dive into our finalists and the inspiration behind their work.
Aashfaria Anwar is a British-Bangladeshi photographer, whose work focuses on centring and celebrating people of colour and other marginalised groups by exploring themes like heritage, love and community. Tribute to The Birangona was born from Aashfaria’s dad, who would his experiences during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Birangona means ‘brave woman’ or ‘war heroine’ and the name the newly founded Bangladesh government bestowed to the 200,000 – 400,000 women and girls that were raped and enslaved at rape camps during the war.
“I wanted to create a series in dedication to The Birangona. There are programs in Bangladesh to make sure the people are aware of them and remember their stories, but I wanted to spread the awareness further.”
Aastha Agrawal is an Indian poet currently enrolled in the Masters of Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing. Dhai Calligraphy takes a nostalgic and somewhat childish approach to the appreciation of the tradition of yoghurt making. [The title is an] act of indentation was almost artistic and held a lot more value and meaning – more than just scooping with a spoon, some fresh yoghurt. [And the layout] on the page, in the shape of crescents, mimics the indents made by spoons on the surface of the yoghurt.
‘Growing up, whenever my mother would make dhai, there would be arguments over who got to make the first indent in it. This memory, of which I thought nothing of at the time, has become vital in my understanding and appreciation of my culture.’
Amit Vadher is an Award-winning British Indian painter and sculpture artist, whose work and technique are inspired by a hybrid of western and Indian culture he was surrounded by, whether it is through images of Hindu deities at home, fashion, festivals and family trips to India.
The cloth of Pride not only did this allow me to incorporate the Tanjore technique, I feel each layer of pattern within the cloth symbolises my journey of finding confidence and learning more about my identity. Having come out as gay️️️️️, I feel my life started again from day one, from that moment I have seen the patterns within the cloth grow and transform into this colourful piece of art, in which my life is now. I believe this painting is a symbolic portrait, that represents the strength, courage and self-discovery of the south Asian LGBTQIA+ community’.
Anusha Alamgir is a multidisciplinary visual artist from Bangladesh. Primarily working with photography, her images document the shifting faces of current culture. Her work aims to reclaim ownership of our lived experiences, through the documentation of the mundane. Rajlakhkhi is a photo that was taken midday outside the multi-storey shopping centre Rajlakhkhi, in Uttara, the northern part of Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh. This photo captures a particular moment where the symbiotic relationship of rural and urban life meets.
“[E]ncompassing where I am in life, as a South Asian person living in the UK. Although trying to navigate this country with its pre-established rules and regulations of decorum, as an artist I am building a life that seems to be organically tinkering away from these imaginary rules”.
Juwad Malik is a London-based 3D/AR designer, who aims to design and create powerful advertising campaigns that spark emotion and a connection among people.
With over a million soldiers in WW1 and 2.5 million soldiers in WW2 putting their lives on the line to have a free Hindustan (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) from any rule of outside forces, The Forgotten Soldiers (1/3) is a remembrance not to discredit the efforts of those in South Asia (as well as Africa and the Caribbean) who gave their lives with the allied forces during both World Wars.
Based in London, Nitesh Tailor is a chef and visual artist whose work explores the histories of the global majority. Through his chosen mediums – film, textiles, and food – his work shines a light on micro forms of Indian, and more broadly South Asian artistic expression. Coming from a tailoring family Discarded fabrics pays homage to Nitesh’s grandparents and their utilisation of discarded fabrics – they were the original sustainable Darji’s (tailors).
“Projected onto the patchwork tapestry [are] my grandparents from the 1960s. The idea behind this was to show that regardless of generational changes in trade, I and my family have inherited a culture of resourcefulness which I believe will be passed down to future generations”.
Sabbi Kaur is an artist and community leader, who uses her creativity to give her voice a platform and her poetry often subverts stereotypes & norms. Brown Rapunzel, a collaboration, looked at subverting the story of Rapunzel and the Western bridal industry, both often have fair-skinned actors, characters and models.
“We are saying yes to dark-brown skin, size 14, mixing henna with white wedding dresses and brown Disney princesses. We are from three different cultures and found a common artistic vision.”
London-born Shirani Bolle is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a Sri Lankan immigrant; the unlikely union of these two backgrounds has heavily influenced her work, which protests against the unquestioned structures of society.
She Didn’t Know is about “my Sri Lankan mother’s [marriage to] my Dutch father, [who] grew troubled and became emotionally abusive. [My] mum discovered [he] was a Holocaust survivor [and his] entire family [were] murdered in Auschwitz. He’d married mum without her knowing. In reality, she’d married a stranger. I was angry [on her behalf], until one day I realised. Everyone I’ve ever loved only ever existed inside my own head.”
Suki Singh is an artist who is exploring social and cultural identities within our society, understanding the needs of materialism and ego explored through experimental mediums.
Go Home is very powerful and shows that racist abuse still continues today and to take back the power in our own hands can be taking the negative and turning it into a positive thing.
Waheeda Rahman-Mair is a British Bangladeshi multi-disciplinary artist and co-founder of a small creative studio called ‘The Treehouse’. Tailored, Sewn and Bonded is a slice of my life with her amma, who would make the most beautiful South Asian clothes.
“Whilst juggling being a part-time office worker, part-time tailor and full-time mum, she’d find the time to teach me Kantha embroidery, something that she learned from her amma.”
Congratulations to all of the winners! To hear about more upcoming Artist In Residence opportunities dropping in 2023, follow Pocc on Instagram.