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KAJAL NISHA PATEL - PHOTOGRAPHY & SOCIAL DOCUMENTARY

We meet at the artsy and inviting LCB Depot in the heart of Leicester’s cultural quarter and Kajal shows me around the ‘Lightseekers’ photographic exhibition that features her poignant images of the the Vanasthali residential school in India that is attended by Adivasi (indigenous) students.

The children have advanced skills in farming and agriculture and are taught about their relationship with the land from a young age. Check out a summary video here.

Kajal told me how she hopes to grow this project to interact with school children in the UK to foster a cross-cultural understanding where young people can learn from each other. 

The project really moves me as it’s important to notice that although countries like India are looked on as ‘developing countries’ and Western education is somewhat more ‘advanced’, the values and sustainable living habits that children at Vanasthali learn are incredibly valuable in such a consumerist, fast-paced society. 

It just goes to show that we can learn something from everyone and we don’t always know best!

A lot of Kajal’s work focuses on migration, diaspora and how communities have to adapt to economic and social environments. The video featured above about our relationships with our parents really hit home and highlights the struggles that immigrant families have to go to in order to provide a better future for their children i.e. us. 

Kajal has a wonderful, fighter spirit and is really committed to documenting communities, culture and giving a voice to the people :) it was awesome to connect with her!

Check out more of Kajal’s work on:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Lightseekers

- S

CANDID INTERVIEW WITH  - LILLY SINGH AKA. SUPERWOMAN

This is the first time I’ve come across an interview with the big, beautiful brown YouTube sensation, Lilly Singh. 

But this isn’t just any old interview. The questions are important, relevant and challenging and it’s so refreshing to see this side of Lilly. Mad respect to her as even though she is at the receiving end of so much criticism and I’m personally not a fan of ALL of her videos but she works incredibly hard, is smart, talented, driven and I’m extremely happy to see her success. 

In a way, she might not be a perfect role model for all young girls in all of her aspects and tastes but her ethos of being positive and being true to who you are is undoubtedly admirable.

Go Superwoman!

- S

Hi there! First of all I want to say thank you both so much for your blog. I go to school in a very white city in the US and tumblr has been a really great place for me to learn about my South Asian roots and other people of color history. I read in one of your earlier posts that you did dissertations about English in Bollywood films and Shakespeare & Orientalism in India...I was wondering if they're available somewhere online? I would love to read them!

Asked by
Anonymous

Hey! Thank you so much for your message <3 Tumblr can be a crazy place, but there’s also a wealth of people here who are creating a strong, educative and wonderful WOC community. We’re so glad you found us! 

image

Yep - we did write on these topics but due to copyright reasons and T&C on the dissertation submission forms, we can’t share them online.

We can always discuss the points with you and have a lovely chat about the general gist of our work. Come off anon! :) If you’d prefer to email, drop us a message on hello@two-browngirls.com

Speak soon! :) 

- A&S x 

KES: RUPI KAUR & KAY RAY

I remember first watching this video earlier this year, tearing up (emotional times) then sharing it instantly with Seet. Rupi’s powerful affirming voice crushes destructive beauty standards and emphasises the importance of not only accepting, but loving our bodies and their natural state. Mad respect for all the women in this video coming together to create such empowering art. 

 your hair is

nothing less than rivers and velvet

for too long, we have been at war with our skin

weaponised with lasers and razor blades

when what we need is a sisterhood

where women help each other belong to themselves

an organism that joined you with the earth below your feet

to the soil your ancestors planted crops on

to feed a lineage of women with

thighs

thick as tree trunks

eyes like almonds

deeply hooded with conviction

- Rupi Kaur

I have always admired the practice of Kes in Sikhism. Knowing that your body has a strong connection to the Divine is immensely beautiful. We all may not be Sikh, but accepting your body in it’s natural state (which i’m not restricting to just hair by the way), with all of its perfections and imperfections can definitely be seen as, I believe, a form of worship. 

- A x 

They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
Run.
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.
Run.

Running Orders. By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

SOUNDS OF REVOLUTION - SALVIN CHAHAL & RUPI KAUR

Vancouver peeps listen up - incredible poets Salvin Chahal and Rupi Kaur will be performing at a FREE event THIS FRIDAY (25th July 2014) exploring ‘home’ through art and dialogue organised by Azaadi. 

There will also be a special screening of 'Kirpa', the short film by Kay Ray and Salvin and Rupi will be leading a poetry workshop on the following day. 

Don’t miss out and register >HERE

We wish we could make it! - Spread the Word

- S

INDIA COUTURE FASHION WEEK 2014: ROUND UP

I’m going to be completely honest and say I wasn’t massively impressed by any of my usual favourites - Sabyasachi & Manish Malhotra - this year round. Yes, the outfits were beautiful and elaborate.. but I guess I just had high expectations from who we consider to be the desi fashion monarchs.

I have, however, suddenly caught eye of Anju Modi. I love her unusual play on dhoti silhouettes and anarkali cuts, keeping things fresh despite using a safe colour palette. Bold doesn’t always mean neon! 

Oh, and how gorgeous did Kangana look? Defo one woman TBG can never over-hype! 

- A x 

What did you guys think of India Couture Week? Who were your favourites?

DUKHTAR: 

Finally!

I’d heard news and hype around Pakistani Filmmaker Afia Nathaniel’s debut film Dukhtar but was itching to see its trailer! 

In the mountains of Pakistan, a mother and her ten-year-old daughter flee their home on the eve of the girl’s marriage to a tribal leader. A deadly hunt for them begins.

What makes the plot even more sinister is its reality; although not restricted to Pakistan, the custom of marrying young girls off to older men without any consent is strongly prevalent in the world. Perhaps a film as powerful as this one can challenge and defy this practice. 

Can’t wait to see how its received! Keep updated by following Dukhtar on Facebook and Twitter.

- A x 

SANAA HAMID - MY BODY IS NOT YOUR BATTLEGROUND II

We caught up with beautiful BROWNGIRL and fantastic photographer Sanaa Hamid after her Kickstarter-funded trip to Pakistan to shoot the second part of her series 'My Body is Not Your Battleground' that turns the stereotype of ‘oppressed’ South Asian women on its head. 

Was your trip to Pakistan what you expected it to be?

Absolutely! I haven’t been to Pakistan since I was 12 for a wedding, so it was the first time I was engaging with that space as a woman. It was slightly overwhelming, honestly. I only had two weeks to photograph as many young women as possible and inevitably, meet a lot of family members who I have never been able to spend time with. That was probably my favourite part - being greeted so warmly by my family. Pakistan gets so much bad press and even I was a little apprehensive, but honestly it is such a beautiful place to be, and the people are so hospitable and welcoming. After a few days the air of Pakistan felt like home.

2. What was the most memorable moment during your trip?

The whole trip is only i’m never going to forget! But oh, there was this time, I was trying to find a place in Islamabad and Rawalpindi where I would be able to process 120mm format film, which is what I was using to shoot the project. We phoned around and multiple labs insisting it’d be fine and to come over. We visited over 10 labs that day. All of them looked at my and my old camera with such bewilderment, like “who is this weird backwards English girl?!” One man from a lab took my film and said “Inshallah, ho jai ga” (God willing, it’ll be done” and he didn’t even have a film processor. I was close to tears that day, but in hindsight it was hilarious. We even went to the infamous Banni Chowk, known for it’s complete lack of traffic regulation. All I left there with was a few jasmine garlands to deal with the pollution!

It was also pretty nice being called “madam” by everybody and being treated like a super important princess photographer, I got a bit used to that life and was horrified to have to make my own chai when I got home.

 

3. What effect do you hope ‘My Body Is Not Your Battleground’ series will have and what are your plans for it in the future?

Representation. Honestly, if I create some kind of visibility, and a younger brown girl looks at the women I’ve photographed and thought “huh, people I can actually look up to!” then i’m happy. If we aren’t happy with the way we’re represented (or aren’t) it’s important to reclaim our portrayals and create our own visibility. My Body Is Not Your Battleground began as a photographic project, but i’ve created a website for it where women internationally can submit whatever it is that they do. So creative brown girls, submit! The more the better > www.mybodyisnotyourbattleground.com/submit

 

4. Will you be selling more tote bags? :)

I have a couple of them left! You can email me sanaahamid92@yahoo.com if you’re interested!

Big ups to Sanaa Hamid and her great work! Follow 'My Body Is Not Your Battleground' on Tumblr and BGs, submit your stories!

- S

WHERE THE CREATIVES AT?
TWO-BROWNGIRLS are looking for illustrators/ web designers/ graphic designers to work with on a new project!
Drop us a message on hello@two-browngirls.com and forward the message onto anyone you think will be interested!
- A&amp;Sx

WHERE THE CREATIVES AT?

TWO-BROWNGIRLS are looking for illustrators/ web designers/ graphic designers to work with on a new project!

Drop us a message on hello@two-browngirls.com and forward the message onto anyone you think will be interested!

- A&Sx

#MIDWEEKINSPO

The 19-hour fasts have officially taken their toll. Although it seems like July is flying by, I feel lethargic and exhausted during the day, especially now that the sun has decided to come out in London (perfect timing).

But, I’m trying my best to remain grateful for good health, food at the end of my long day and having my family around me, especially given the horrific news of how Muslims in Palestine and other war and poverty stricken countries are spending their Ramadan. Lets all remember them in our sincere prayers.

Here’s my inspo for this week: 

1. This powerful and touching video of a Muslim and a Jewish girl speaks volumes about love, friendship and coexistence. We’re often taught to hate each other because of our differences, (especially racial and religious ones!), but sometimes, poignant reminders like this performance allow us to see a distinctive yet essential perspective of humanity, religion and stereotypes.

 2.  This article written by the husband on how to maintain your fitness and gym antics during Ramadan should inspire you all to lay off the fried foods! I have to say, even though I feel lethargic during the day, going to the gym helps to keep my energy levels up. 

3. Surprisingly came across this small exhibition in my home town on Lahore & Chandigarh. Honestly impressed at the artwork of local college students expressing their thoughts and artistic interpretations of partition. Most brown kids in my area don’t know even know what partition was!

- A x

For those of you fasting, how is your Ramadan going? Do you have any tips on how to stay productive (and not sleepy)?

JAS CHARANJIVA - STREET ART IN INDIA

Loved this short video feature on awesome muralist, illustrator and digital artist, Jas Charanjiva. 

California-born, Jas now lives in West Bandra, Mumbai and creates work digitally, in print and on walls. She also founded the fantastic Kulture Shop where you can grab all kinds of original merchandise by Indian graphic artists from around the world. 

Check out more of her work here.

- S

DEEYAH - ARTIST, DIRECTOR, ACTIVIST

I first heard about Deeyah a while ago, through her music. She has an incredible voice with classical training from some of the most highly respected musicians of both Pakistan and India. But Deeyah’s performing career was cut short when she was at the receiving end of hate, threats and relentless abuse telling her that she shouldn’t be expressing herself in the way that she was. 

It all got too much and she was forced to leave her family in Norway at the age for 17 to come to the UK. She worked as a music producer and activist and through her company Fuuse, she made an incredible film called 'Banaz - A Love Story'

You can watch the film below. It’s not easy stuff but it’s essential to see how patriarchal structures like these are not only deeply embedded but also lethal and have to be understood and stopped here in the UK. 

In 2013, ‘Banaz - A Love Story’ won an Emmy for Best International Documentary. 

"It’s hard to explain the nuances of the rigid patriarchal structures of social cultures like Banaz’s and mine. Our young people are suffocated and suppressed. Banaz is the most extreme outcome, but many, many other girls like Banaz are still walking around among us facing the abuse meted out on women in these honour-based social structures."

It’s hard to summarise all the courageous, pioneering and inspiring work that Deeyah has done and continues to do and although it highlights how gruesome the world is, activism like this comes from a place of compassion, peace and utmost honour, in the truest sense of the word. 

Follow Deeyah on Twitter and Facebook to support and keep up to date with her work. 

- S