Indian identities are especially complex as they meet at multiple points of intersection between class, gender, sexuality, and caste. Our society is not typically conducive to the tough conversations on culture that must be had by every generation.
Gaysi, an online forum dedicated to queer South Asians, is attempting to change the status quo with its Zine Bazaar event that hopes to navigate the full breadth of Indian culture, even outside queerness. The Zine Bazaar, made up of stalls, workshops, and panel discussions, will circulate short, original products of art, photography, and literature called “zines” by creatives who explore various aspects of their identity through their work. “This event is a large amalgamation of various mindsets coming together to promote Indian narratives. We’ve invited Indians who will discuss gender, caste, body image, sexuality, and anything else related to identity,” said Sakshi Juneja, founder of Gaysi.
From artists and designers to publishers, the 50 individuals holding exhibitions and workshops have been specially handpicked by the Gaysi team. “There is amazing work out there but not everyone knows about it,” said Sakshi eagerly. With the aim of connecting people who don’t normally interact, the Gaysi team has reached out to NGOs, communities, and individuals who have still not entered mainstream art and culture scenes to showcase their perspectives and unique take on life in Indian society.
Tanvi Bhat, a children’s book illustrator, is one such person. Presenting a zine that details a journey of self-acceptance after struggling with insecurities about her body, she said, “My personal work is where I really do the soul-searching. There are times when I feel I don’t have control over my body or when I’m struggling to detangle my thoughts. Illustration is where I go to find my answers.”
Although Tanvi’s work is personal to her experience as an Indian woman, narratives like hers on body positivity and feminism are popularised through Western media which largely ignores diversity and Indian-specific issues. “When I read Bechdel’s work or see Nanette, I wish queer Indian content had more visibility and encouragement because we have so many stories or resistance and resilience that simply need to be heard,” said Debasmita Das, a young artist from Bangalore who created a graphic novel named “Off the Track,” that talks about heteronormativity and its impact on relationships.
Debasmita astutely said that seeking stories that reflect our own is a basic human tendency and, in India, the underrepresentation of minorities raises serious issues of visibility and erasure. This is the essence of the Zine Bazaar and its collaborators: to tackle the dearth of Indian narratives, connect the artistic community, and provide a platform to those looking to explore their sense of self.
Like Debasmita and Tanvi, Najiba Yasmin, part of a Pune-based collective called 542 folds that investigate the relationship between identity, ethnicity, and migration hopes that the Zine Bazaar is the first step in a long line of similar progressive movements. “The different perspectives that will be brought by various indie artists will hopefully be highly valuable in shattering myopic views on identity and make them more accepting intersectional identities,” Najiba said.
Touted as a “celebration of scenes, colours, and people,” the Zine Bazaar will be held on September 1 and 2, 2018, at G5A Mahalaxmi, from 11 AM to 7 PM.
Feature Image: PUNTER, a zine by Harmeet Rahal, Tanvi Kanchan and Sahej Rahal.
If you enjoyed reading this, we suggest reading: