What does it mean to hold on to these identity markers, ‘South Asian’ or ‘People of Colour’, especially in the space of art? For a very long time, our collective aesthetics were borrowed from the colonisers. The colour palettes, prints and styles adorned by South Asian women were considered ‘tacky’ or not as tasteful as the modest, muted western clothing. Over the years we have learned to contain our unique expressions of style, without catering to the coloniser’s gaze of what is truly ‘fashionable’.
75 years post-independence, young artists are now reclaiming the indigenous aesthetics. In a time when the global market is coping with pandemic blues by the use of colourful clothing and maximalism, the choices are clearly reminiscent of South Asian clothing. It is precisely for this reason that these pieces work as a homage to the women, who’ve adorned similar aesthetics and clothing for centuries, irrespective of trend cycles.
I. Mahoor Jamal
An artist based in Lahore, Mahoor Jamal, has been creating artworks that highlight unique aspects of South Asian femininity. The fashion illustrations juxtapose western elements with ethnic clothing, presenting a powerful image of the women. From streetwear to victorian collars and cuffs, moulded with a rich colour palette and drapes from the orient. The striking imagery reshapes South Asian women as style icons where ethnic textiles and prints take the centre stage.
II. Hamama Tul Bushra
An artist that presents a vibrant image of ethnic aesthetics in her work, displaying the unapologetic and fierce existence of the women living seemingly regular lives. The artwork is an ode to the small towns and the unabashed sense of style embodied by the people. Capturing South Asian men and women in acclaimed art styles such as American Gothic and more, the representation also refrains from showcasing only one body type, instead highlighting the wide range of South Asian women embodying their natural selves.
A young artist who displays an entire range of South Asian experiences by capturing women of different communities. The expressive colourful mediums explore the style and adornment of tribal women as well as mythical queens. Playing on famous art styles through a South Asian lens, the artist created a rendition of ‘The Kiss’ 1905 by Gastuv Klimt. Her inspirations range from Greek Mythology to Royal Portraiture, exemplifying the colours, prints, jewellery and rich textiles from the subcontinent.
IV. Shehzil Malik
An artist keen on highlighting social issues through the art of storytelling, Shehzil is a young illustrator who uses her skills to voice dissent. Framing South Asian women in a position of power while critiquing the many issues plaguing society, she presents her perspective on issues such as human rights, feminism and South Asian identity through her artworks. The bright colour palette, typography and clothing truly capture indigenous aesthetics and are sure to bring our attention to the issue being presented.
A professional fine artist, Joyeeta’s creativity shines its light on realistic portrayals of South Asian women with hints of Bengali accents. With a focus on highlighting the unique features, their emotional experiences, vulnerability and ethnic clothing, the smallest details of South Asian makeup styles, intricate jewellery and the natural form are represented through a celebration of colour and unique motifs.
If you enjoyed reading this, we also suggest: