4 South Asian Artists Challenging The "Banality" of Brown Spaces In The Art World

4 South Asian Artists Challenging The "Banality" of Brown Spaces In The Art World

Dear reader,

Can we all collectively admit to being tired of first world tokenism and predominantly White spaces that wish-wash over the elitist art world as well?

However, breaking the banality of brown-ness to create art that resonates beyond the Eurocentric frames are South Asian artists shrugging off the identity politics and the fetishisation of the same to create a body of work that speaks for itself.

Here’s a quick list of 4 south Asian artists Homegrown is currently obsessed with –

Riya Hamid


Painting a defiant visual of resistance is Riya Hamid, a Berlin-based poet, artist and model who originally hails from Chittagong, Bangladesh. With an eclectic personal style and art that disturbs the existing stereotypes of an ideal Brown woman, Hamid claims to be a part of a robust community of Brown women challenging the narrative with striking self-portraits and art that reflects upon her heritage, womanhood, and the grunge-esque style that makes you do a double-take.

Check out her work here.

Moshtari Hilal


Thick brows accentuating a pair of dark eyes and art dipped in pools of black ink that pays homage to black haired bodies is Moshtari’s way of carving a space of visibility and celebration of brown lives.

Using her pens as a tool for change, Moshtari draws a variety of faces that she doesn’t see in the arts and mainstream media. She started with herself though – one of her first art projects was a series of self-portraits, inspired by Frida Kahlo’s radical approach to the art form as per Wepresent.

Born in Kabul, Pakistan, Moshtari moved to Germany at the age of two, which led to her growing up in a reality where Eurocentric beauty standards were considered the norm on billboards, in magazines, on TV screens and in museums.

When the wave of body positivity movements hit the world, it missed the mark completely crediting to ethnic tokenism in the name of diversity.

 “I felt like an alien — absent in most of the visual content that was produced. It wasn’t just noses. Faces were never too round or too long. Skin was smooth and hairless, as if body hair was a total aberration in nature, this narrow image of facial beauty deeply affected me as a young girl.”

— — Moshtari

Activating the hashtag #embracetheface, Moshtari kick-started a portrait series and social media movement encouraging people to appreciate their own facial features. On the internet, she found her audience in the Afghan, Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern diaspora.

Check out her work here.

Rowi Singh


A Sydney-based content creator of Indian origin, Rowi Singh’s feed gives us all sunshine and rainbows and we’re not complaining!

Channelling a different day, different serve aesthetic with graphic eyes, 3D lips and dash of desi tadka, Rowi’s work is a celebration of her Indian heritage.

The creative artist claims that her art aids her to move past the dissonance that she grew up with of not being considered Indian or Australian enough by empowering her to culminate a seamless blend between her art and culture.

“I love being able to communicate the strength and power of my South Asian womanhood. I’m empowered to visualise the natural fluidity between my culture and art.”

— —Rowi Singh

Check out her work here.

Salman Toor


Salman Toor is a Pakistani artist based in New York City. His work draws inspiration from the lives of queer brown men living in NYC and South Asia.

His intimate vignettes juxtapose queer experiences with issues faced by Brown people such as policing or the xenophobia that is a dreadful reality. Toor’s figures are often pictured to be distraught and dazed in happy or morose scenes alike. Although certain scenes might seem lively, like people gathered at a poetry reading or friends dancing in an apartment, the fever dream-like state is a constant undertone throughout each frame and is marked by a distinctive colour palette and signature brushstrokes. Toor’s work possesses a dynamic intersection between romance and tension, nostalgia and alienation that resonates with South Asian identities everywhere.

Check out his work here.

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