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On the Tumblr-sphere, some of you may have already encountered this bad-ass British Pakistani Photographer Sanaa Hamid through her viral Cultural Appropriation Series . But as a Pakistani woman myself, this particular series rendered a powerfully familiar and nuanced exploration of women’s body politics across the Subcontinent. 

“Through Her Eyes”shows her attempts to conform to culturally inherited expectations and ideologies that are sometimes imposed on her.

It is portrayed through a series of performative self portraits, using the aesthetic style of Bollywood films and Pakistani actresses that her Mother admired at the same age as her. It is a collaboration between herself and her mother, as the latter is given the responsibility to press the shutter, immortalising her as an image of a particular character; literally “Through Her Eyes”.

It is an exploration of self, while also questioning how possible it is to know those closest to us, and the absence of our true self even with your own mother, who should be the person closest to you.

By displaying the work as a series of four photographs, Hamid takes the viewer through a succession of personalities, encouraging speculation about the photographer herself and her true identity. Hamid reinterprets the self portrait to make reference topical issues of multiculturalism and ethnic identity. Her discomfort in being in front of the camera is another important aspect of the process, as it is parallel with the difficulty of becoming the character.

Also discussed is the modern depictions of Pakistani women, who have very little positive representation within the media and the beauty industry. Hamid’s intention is not to cast a negative view upon her cultural background, but to create awareness about the distinctly different moral guidelines she lives by compared to British culture. In her role as Bollywood stars such as Meena Kumari (images 1 & 2) or Rekha (image3) and Devika (image 4), she is accepted not just by her culture, but by society. She is perfect.

You can find our more about Sana and her other work that powerfully explores gender, race, religion, and multiculturalism on her website

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Using film, visual art, dance and poetry, A Different Mirror provides a platform for Women of Colour artists to explore the conflicts about how we see ourselves versus how we are seen.

The 3 day exhibition and educational activities confront these crucial questions about the systems or structures that shape our relationship to our bodies and its connection to our identities. It holds up a mirror to see and know ourselves differently.

Exhibition Public Opening Times:

Saturday 26th April 2014 10 am – 5pm

Sunday 27th April 2014 12 pm – 5pm

 Featuring works by: Indigo WilliamsLesley AsareSanaa HamidNasreen RajaSarina Leah MantleWasma MansourUchenna Dance, Patricia Kaersenhout, and Ng’endo MukiiAowen JinJanine ‘j*9′ FrancoisClare Eluka, and Emerzy Corbin.

Reflections: Art as a Tool for Healing

Saturday 26th of April 2014

6:30pm – 8:30pm £7.50 (early bird £6.50)

This artist seminar explores the ways in which art can be used to heal and empower ourselves and others. It offers insight into different artistic mediums and how these artists have used their practices for reclamation and transformation.

Featuring a performance by writer Yrsa Daley-Ward, talks by Indigo Williams (poet) and Lesley Asare (visual and performance artist) of I Shape Beauty, and a panel discussion featuring Sharmila ChauhanAowen JinVicki Igbokwe (Uchenna Dance) and Bola Agbaje.

Book your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reflections-art-as-a-tool-for-healing-tickets-11083233249?ref=ebtnebtckt 

Photos by Rowena Gordon Photography

3

BLACK WIDOW: THE RED ROOM; Reprogramming the human mind is a delicate and complex matter. Much has been made of the Department’s scientific endeavors in the years immediately following the war, less has been made of ethical concerns. Detractors in the future will tend to forget that there is nothing unique about Project Winter Soldier, about forming the perfect tool in order to create the perfect state. Aleksander Lukin and Ivan Petrovitch were inspired, like millions of others, by the American they call Captain. To form a more perfect union, we the people understand that sacrifices must be made. For many to live, a few must— 

Finish the sentence; she bites through her cheek. For many to live, a few must
—? For many to live, a few must— for many to live, a few must— 

For many to live.
Finish the sentence. Finish the mission. Finish the sentence. Finish the— 

A HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TO ARI: PART I.

The history of a medical instrument reveals the dubious science of racial difference.

“This is a problem not just with lung capacity measurements but with health inequality more generally. There’s vastly, vastly, vastly more research on genomics than on the social determinants of health. Part of the problem is the infrastructure of science. What kinds of questions are considered scientific?”

We’re proud to present our first musical effort; selected, curated and mixed by us.

'Rising WoC Artists 2013' was commissioned exclusively for the amazing @body_narratives project founded by Hana Riaz.

The Body Narratives aims to curate and document all the ways in which Women of Colour navigate, understand and own their bodies and their embodied experiences. In collecting a diverse range of Women of Colour’s voices and mediums (across race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, geographic location, able-bodiedness and gender queer identities), the project seeks to uncover how our bodies belong to ourselves.

Share and enjoy!

The Body Narratives: www.thebodynarratives.com
The Lonely Londoners: www.thelonelylondoners.com

FEATURED ARTISTS:
1. Soufflé - Dai Burger
2. Picky Bitch Checklist -Junglepussy 
3. Versace Hottie - Wavy Spice
4. Money - Tecla
5. Don’t Wait (Kingdom Remix)- Mapei
6. Floor Show - Kelela
7. Treat Me Like Somebody - Tink G
8. Hand On Heart - Moko
9. Bed - SZA
10. Lazy Days - Shamz Le Roc

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[Hana] When I first came across Jamilla Okubo's work, I felt an instant joy. Bright, colourful and bold with the use of African prints, her pieces offer both a celebration and a reclamation of black bodies. Today Jamilla tells us more about what inspires her and the stories she wants to tell through her prints and illustrations. 

1.Tell us a little about your work?

I really enjoy working with an array of mediums such as painting, digital/hand-painted prints, garments, and collaging. Color is definitely a key element in my work as well as prints. My work mainly focuses on subjects of the Diaspora because I just love the beauty within our culture and people. I just feel as though it is my duty to remind people of color that we have such a rich culture, and that we should love ourselves and one another. So I strive for my work to have a balance of conceptuality and beauty. These are two quotes that I live by when it comes to creating artwork:

"The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If i love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see."- James Baldwin

"The black artist is dangerous. Black art controls the “Negro’s” reality, negates negative influences, and creates positive images.”- Sonia Sanchez

2. What inspires you and what is your process?

I am heavily inspired by my background culture and experiences in life. My work is heavily fired by my emotions as well. Whether I am passionate or really angry about something, I use those feelings as an advantage to create from the heart and express myself. I am also inspired by other cultures. Being able to interact with people from all over the world and experience other cultures is a blessing.

Depending on the project that I am working on, I may gather inspiration photos from the internet or books, and create a moodboard (it’s a habit that I got from school, specifically fashion). Majority of the time I will randomly get inspired, whether it is from a movie or an incident that I saw on the news, I immediately start creating. I have a very odd way of working because, a lot of people always tell me “you work so much”, “you’re always creating something”, or “how do you have so much time to create?” Honestly I don’t!. When an idea sparks I immediately stop whatever I am doing and create what I envisioned at that moment.

3. Textile prints seem to play a key part in your prints and illustrations. What does this mean to you and is it telling of your own journey?

While attending Duke Ellington School of the Arts I was to create a 15-painting themed series for my senior year. As I found myself searching for inspiration I came across Africa Fashion Week NY for the first time. The textiles, beautiful african models, and vibrant expression of a culture I had been long disconnected from - struck a chord in me. From this I began my wandering - an earnest exploration of my history and ancestors. Blessed by a teacher by the name of Stanley Squirewell, seeing the fire in me as a young person, introduced me to a host of artists that continue to inspire me today: Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Wangenchi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, etc. I played with how to take these narratives of blackness and interpret them through my work, my craft.

4. As a designer, what does the body mean to you?

As a designer, the body is an external way to express oneself. Also, being able to interpret and express your inner self through clothing and accessories is a wonderful thing. It gives all people the opportunity to treat their body as a canvas and not have to worry about others perceptions or opinions. The body provides a landscape on which my aesthetic inevitable conclusions come to life.

5. What can we look out for in 2014?

Well hopefully if all goes as planned, I am working on having my second solo art show in June. But as of now I am focusing on school, so you will of course see what I am working on throughout the semester. I always find a way to link my school projects with my own work. I cannot speak of all that I am planning on doing because I don’t want to jinx myself. Just know that I am always working on something!

Aspiring Textile designer, Jamilla Okubo, is an 20-year old African-American/Kenyan native from Washington, D.C. She is currently studying Integrated Fashion Design at Parsons the New School for Design. Jamilla’s prints invoke a life and sophistication in them. Constantly utilizing the vibrancies of African textiles to her advantage with color ways that would put a smile to both the viewer and wearer. Where her work gains depth lays in the subject matter of the prints. The prints, fun as they may be, acknowledge a deeper struggle which is rooted in black culture. She acknowledges the history, but similar to an upbeat song about heartbreak decides to shine a different light on the situation by claiming the story back for herself.

Follow her on: 
Blog: www.vivaillajams.tumblr.com 
Portfolio Site: www.jamillaokubo.com 
Shop: www.society6.com/jamillaokubo

Watch on two-browngirls.com

THE BODY NARRATIVES: A DIFFERENT MIRROR

The female body has been defined, translated and documented for centuries by a gaze other than our own. As we delve into different cultural and religious layers of our identity, the issue of ‘body ownership’ becomes more complex, and its easy to feel that as women of colour, we are losing the power and voice to express what our bodies mean to us.   

So…when we met up with photographer Sanaa Hamid last week, we were excited to hear about the new journey that the ladies behind The Body Narratives are planning! 

From documenting WoC concerns on their blog, the The Body Narratives team is now working towards holding workshops, educational events and their first exhibition to encourage a dialogue about body issues that inevitably affect us all as a community of women. 

‘A Different Mirror’ is a three-day art exhibition by 9 artists in Brixton, London. Socially constructed ideas about race, gender and culture remain key in how Women of Colour perceive themselves. The exhibition will use art as the basis to capture and explore body image and perception, examining the effects of body image on who we are.

Supporting their kick-starter doesn’t only mean you’ll be funding their project, but also means that you’ve made an active step in helping to bring about body positivity.

Donate here, and make sure you don’t miss their first fundraising event (Seet and I are gutted we can’t make it!) if you’re around Brixton next Tuesday. 

- A x

 

I really believe that applying poetry, or language in general, to trauma is the ultimate act of reclaiming. Naming something gives you a sort of ownership over it (hey, colonialism did it all the time, haha), so choosing words that identify your experience makes it less of this looming unknown that has you at its mercy. It makes everything less ‘something that happened to me’ and more ‘experience/story that belongs to me,’ you know?
—  Safia Elhillo, interviewed for The Body Narratives
Watch on www.ishapebeauty.com

In conjunction with The Body Narratives, I Shape Beauty will be presenting ‘The Secrets Women Keep,’ a poetry and visual arts workshop led by Lesley Asare and Indigo Williams within ‘A Different Mirror,’ a three-day multidisciplinary art exhibition by Women of Colour artists in Brixton, London from the 25th - 27th April 2014.

Born out of the necessity and need to create spaces for young girls of colour to explore what their bodies mean and how they define themselves, ADM aims to give voice to a plethora of experiences and perspectives that are often invisible or misrepresented in the mainstream.

The exhibition will provide a platform for Women of Colour artists to initiate this conversation and use film, photography, visual art, dance and poetry as the basis to capture these conflicts about how we see ourselves versus how we are seen and celebrate them. In confronting these crucial questions about the systems or structures that shape our relationship to our bodies, we are also encouraging the use of art as a powerful tool for healing and transformation personally and collectively.

As 2 of the exhibition’s artists we will be working with 7 women of colour through workshops prior to the exhibition to create a poetry and visual arts installation that will share their journeys to owning their bodies.

We are currently looking for women of colour between the ages of 18-24 who would like to participate in the project. 

About the Workshops

Poetry Workshop

Sunshine International Arts Centre, Brixton, London

Monday 14th April 2014

10am - 6pm

Using various poems as writing and discussion prompts, participants will explore experiences of shame that have had an impact on their relationship with their bodies. This will be done over tea and coffee in a relaxed and safe environment. The participants will then write and record their own poems about their experiences through film. 

Objectives

  • To explore what things have influenced our relationships with our bodies
  • To share our stories with other women
  • To write poems that will be filmed and featured as an installation piece

Visual Arts Workshop

Brixton East, Brixton, London

Wednesday 23rd April & Thursday 24th April 2014

10- 6pm (both days) 

To explore the difference between what we believe our bodies to look like and what our bodies actually look like, Lesley will work with the participants to create personal gum tape body sculptures within a warm and safe environment. 

Objectives

  • To create sculptures that will enable us to see ourselves and appreciate a range of body shapes and sizes
  • To create a safe space to discuss body image, presence and what it means to take up space as women of colour.

To apply please email us at ishapebeauty@gmail.com with a brief personal statement that communicates who you are (name, age, ethnicity, occupation,) why you would like to be a part of this project and what you hope to get out of it. Please also add an additional statement that answers the question: What secrets do you keep? 

Please be aware that you must be available for all three days of the workshop. 

Applications close on Wednesday 26th March 2014

Successful applicants will be contacted by Friday 28th March 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Warm wishes, 

Lesley & Indigo 

Watch on foxxxynegrodamus.tumblr.com

'A Different Mirror' is a three-day multidisciplinary art exhibition by 9 Women of Colour artists in Brixton, London. Socially constructed ideas about race, gender and culture remain key in how Women of Colour perceive themselves.

The exhibition will use art as the basis to capture and explore body image and perception, examining the effects of body image on who we are. In addition to supporting Women of Colour artists we want to create a programme that relates to, engages with and celebrates the experiences of Women of Colour in London where these discussions are often limited. 

We want to use this platform as a safe space and creative medium to discuss body image, body positivity and healing by creating accessible educational activities. 

For more information go to http://thebodynarratives.com/exhibition

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One important summer’s day I came across Qahera, the badass Muslim woman superhero, and felt a little more than good. Witty, empowering and politically perfect, Deena’s Webcomic has crucially been well received. I wanted to know more about the inspiration behind the Hijabi superhero that takes on misogynistic Muslim men and white-saviour-complex feminists.

Q. Who is Qahera and why is she important?

At this stage of her development, Qahera is a female, visibly Muslim superhero. She’s important (to me, I suppose) because I feel like there is a need for female Muslim superheroes who actually deal with the real-life issues we face instead of fictional supervillains (because let’s face it, half of the things Muslim women have to deal with feel like they’ve been concocted by supervillains.) But yeah, there’s a need for her. Both in comics and in real life.

Q. What does it mean for her to be a superhero?

I feel like it means she doesn’t have to be afraid. She can face the challenges all Muslim women face head-on and obliterate them. Superheroes have this remarkable ability of standing out in a crowd and getting their voices heard (admittedly, usually because they’re wearing skintight lycra and a cape) and I guess that’s what I want Qahera to do.

On an audience-receptive level, her being a superhero also means she can break past the barriers of constant arguing and the words we use over and over again, like “privilege” and “patriarchy” and “intersectional feminism” and just visually slap you with the reality of the words in simple, simple terms. People understand superheroes. Nothing is clearer than angry words in a speech bubble coming from a lady holding a sword.

Unfortunately this also has its drawbacks because angry words in a speech-bubble cannot fully describe or explain the intricacies behind the challenges we face. It can also lead to infantilising or over-simplifying an issue (particularly to those unfamiliar with them), but I guess that’s my own personal challenge to work on.

Q. How do you feel she challenges the stereotypes and tropes Muslim women face, particularly as they (and their bodies) are often spoken for, spoken at, and spoken against?

I guess she mostly challenges them just by existing. Even though there are already two veiled superheroes in the comic book world (Dust, Excalibur), the majority of the comments I’ve received have been “what a great concept!”

People are surprised by the idea of a Muslim woman as a superhero. Superheroes are Western concepts, even though every child in the world probably knows Superman. The idea that a Muslim woman would be a part of that (especially a Middle-Eastern based one, as Qahera is) is sort of different to them in itself. Apart from that I think she challenges the stereotypes head-on. Her entire existence is bent on being outspoken, independent and fierce.

The worst and most common stereotype Muslim women face is that of being helpless and controlled, lacking autonomy. A superhero is the opposite of that. Qahera is the opposite of that.

Q. Where did the concept come from for the comic?

My frustration with the world. Qahera came about because she was basically everything I longed to be. Additionally, I see so many strong and powerful women who constantly fight and strive for freedom, both politically and socially, and I feel like some of them are already superheroes. The two ideas - that I’d like superpowers, that women are superheroes - sort of collided into Qahera.

Q. Where can we get more of this badass superhero?

Ahhh my blog probably! I’ve received an incredible response, which makes me think I should probably make a separate place to post Qahera’s adventures, but until then she’s at Blog Like An Egyptian 

Deena is an Egyptian university student majoring in graphic design. She also works as a freelance illustrator. She currently resides in Egypt where she watches too many television shows. She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

It’s time for The Body Narratives to give you guys a heads up on exciting events coming up. This is one we can’t wait to attend and hope that some of you Londoners will be joining us! 

Led by a collective of four African Diaspora women artists, Janine Francois (Creative Producer/Director), Stella Odunlami (Curator), Zainab Adamu (Photographer/Filmmaker) and Belinda Zhawi (Writer and Griot), Re-introducing Oshun is an interdisciplinary exhibition that re-imagines black women’s bodies as sacred places of beauty, intimacy, and love through the Yoruba deity, Oshun. 

Janine Francois tells us a little more about the project:

"The exhibition is inspired by Oshun and  her "responsibilities" in the physical and metaphysical worlds which are,  diplomacy, love, beauty, seduction and sexuality. She is also associated with rivers and is akin to honey, hues of gold, peacock feathers, perfumes and seductive movements, all of whom are featured in the exhibition. We wanted our audience to emerge themselves in to another time, space and reality where black women’s bodies are worshiped as the beacon of beauty, as Oshun is. It is in this capacity we are re-introducing Oshun by connecting her powers to the beauty of black women’s bodies. 

I had the idea of wanting to produce an exhibition tackling the topic of black women’s bodies, I am very much influenced by Foucault and his notion of “biopolitics.”  I am also a Producer and not practising artist, so I went straight to my friends and other artists whom I have had the pleasure to work with and pitch the idea to them. Thankfully, they said yes. A big part of this was wanting to create an all female and all black collective and being quite unapologetic about it too. Thus, providing and facilitating a creative space where our disciplines could work together to produce aesthetically beautiful pieces of art loaded with meaning.”

'Re-Introducing Oshun,'  will be open from 10 - 17 October 2013 at Shinobare Studios.  Hosted by Guest Projects Africa and funded by the Arts Council, it culminates in an evening of live performances at the Lyric Hammersmith. Don’t miss out!

this little cutie is Sonia, a nine year old from a village in Punjab. A few years back my mum’s sister found her, her two baby brothers and mother sleeping in the streets near where she lives. my aunt (a doctor whose practice is entirely focused on treating poor folk and in particular women/children, with a lot of activism centred on womens/childrens rights) took them temporarily in and kept them for a little while. Sonia’s father had kicked them out after marrying another woman, her mother having nothing came to Karachi to try and stay with her brother. He too left them on the streets which is not uncommon if you know a Karachi - a city difficult extreme inequality, where women often bare the brunt of poverty and violence. Whilst my aunt couldn’t keep them all permanently she offered to take care of Sonia. A few months in Sonia’s father reappeared on the scene and forced them all back to the village where he gave Sonia to his grandmother and was made to hard labour in the fields with the donkeys and to look after her brothers all the while. She was forced to sleep outside. She made her way back to Karachi eventually and came back to my aunts. Not a day goes by she isn’t laughing, smiling, and is so bright with so much personality. It never ceases to amaze me how such a young girl can be not only so resilient but filled with so much joy, gladness and playfulness despite the strife and cruelty she has faced. Truly humbling and inspiring.

I grow to inhabit the lightness that haunts me like a ghost. It’s an easy identity to wear. The tiny Asian girl, floating through a world that already tells its women: “Be less of you, be smaller.” It is so simple, so seductive. Eventually, it becomes me. For the longest time, my weight hovers below a hundred pounds. The number becomes my benchmark, my sea level. As long as I stay below it, I’m still me. But it’s dangerous to build an identity based on being nothing; it’s dangerous to think of yourself as weightless.
—  i wrote about my struggles with disordered eating and body image for the body narratives. it’s something that i’ve touched on here before, but this is the first time i’ve really written about it in a larger sense; i’m happy it’s published, but it’s also been a little bit scary to have it in the open. always learning; always growing. thank you for reading.
4

[Hana] Meryem Meg’s work resonated with me the moment I saw it.  Representations of the Middle East, Muslim world and even the South Asian Subcontinent, still to this day remain held by the Colonial Orientalist gaze that attempted to fix them centuries ago. Meryem speaks to us more about how she attempts to subvert the gaze and resist through a different type of power in looking. 

Ways of seeing was a project I undertook to allow myself to visually and theoretically explore and communicate the ways in which body language was used to objectify the Woman through colonial Orientalist Painting. Looking at visual ways of hiding and revealing through mark making.

I use creativity as a tool to outline and direct or redirect the gaze, offering a different outlook or visual commentary on some of the most defining works, which sprung in 18-19th C Europe. It is important for me to combat and try to portray a much more justified and realistic representation of the ‘oriental woman’ through my own reality.

I want to bring light and also celebrate the complexity and many different facets of the oriental woman; challenging stereotypes, which were formed through Orientalism and Orientalist painters, continuing to carry these representations through popular culture. I want to underline the reality that is hidden, and contribute to demolishing all idea’s that the oriental women is nothing more than a passive, exotic object of desire, a salve to the avidity of men and unable to have any form of intellectual integrity.

Learning from this I hope to expand the project which started as a personal expression I felt I needed to get out of my system, to a much more community orientated project. I love a statement made by Junot Diaz which goes to say, ” You know how vampires have no reflection in the mirror? If you want to make a human being a monster, Deny them at a cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

It is extremely crucial to have the ability to represent and communicate self. As a Woman of Muslim African / European background I feel like my work should strive towards that and facilitate a space of debate and deliberation. Whether it addresses the emancipation of the woman within her own “community”, or through a western white dominated lens.

Meryem is a 23 year old Algerian, Bulgarian visual artist based in London. Raised between France and the UK. Her inspiration stems from a love for all ethnical art merged with her urban reality, combining through a passion for print making, bespoke typography and a strategic use of vivid colour combinations.

Graduated with a BA in Graphic design from LCA and most recently with an MA from the University of Arts London. Her passion for race / gender and identity have continually surfaced within her design and artistic practice. Continually striving to celebrate the woman through her art.

You can follow her on Tumblr, buy from her online store, and catch her on Twitter.

Secrets Women Keep Workshop ***EXTENDED DEADLINE - WEDNESDAY 2ND APRIL, 5PM ****

Hello everyone, 

To those of you who have already emailed us to express your interest in working with us on The Secrets Women Keep Project, thank you for sharing your secrets with us with such grace and honesty.

We will be extending the application deadline to WEDNESDAY 2ND APRIL at 5pm so if you are thinking about applying, please do get in touch before then. 

We would also like to highlight the following points:

  1. The workshops are open to all women of colour between the ages of 18 - 24 irrespective of your artistic experience.
  2. The workshops are specifically aimed at women of colour between the ages of 18-24, however older applicants who specifically detail why they would like to be considered may be selected. 
  3. Please be aware that workshop spaces are limited to 7 participants.
  4. Successful applicants will be contacted on Friday 4th April 2014.

For more information on how to apply click here

Check out Indigo’s SWK video here

And check out the ‘A Different Mirror’ exhibition website here

Warm wishes

Lesley & Indigo

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