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NIZAAD PHOTOGRAPHY

I was instantly spell-bound when I came across Nizaad’s picture of her stood in a field with her arms stretched out as if embracing or surrendering. Here are a few of my favourites from her photostream that moved me. Most of her photographs are filled with fantasy or an almost haunting sense of wonder that just pulls me in. 

Check out the rest of her great work on Flickr

- S

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ARUNDHATI ROY - RELENTLESS REVOLUTIONARY

A super-BROWNGIRL and tireless voice of the voiceless, Arundhati Roy never fails to capture my hope and spirit. This awesome recent article that reflects on her life and work has really drawn me towards more of her non-fiction writing. 

Is it just me or was “God of Small Things’ tough to get into?

Anyways here she is again speaking passionately on her thoughts surrounding national election madness in India at the moment.

Enjoy and be inspired.

- S

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BALJIT SINGH - WOMEN IN THE ARTS

I love this fantastic series by brilliant photographer Baljit Singh. She was originally inspired by Jamie C. Moore's well known work where she photographed her daughter posing as historical iconic women to inspire her beyond the Disney princesses. 

Baljit Singh did the same with her little cousin (if I’m right?) to inspire and influence people to open up to the power and future of women in the arts. 

She says:

"From my personal experience at home, the idea of a career in the arts wasn’t a “real” job and was told it would get me nowhere…especially as a woman. I wanted to help open up people’s minds and expand the term of what art is. Art isn’t just painting or photography but it can be everything from music to writing to performing. There are tons of unbelievable people in the arts but I chose these eight influential ladies who I feel can empower young girls everywhere."

Check out the full series here and more of Baljit Singh’s stunning work on her Tumblr

- S

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THE SINGH PROJECT - AMIT AND NAROOP PHOTOGRAPHY

The ‘Singh’ project is a great new photography series by Amit and Naroop focusing on the fact that there are about as many ways to wear the turban and beard as there are Sikhs. 

"The men who feature in this project are businessmen, boxers, IT professionals, doctors, fashion stylists, temple volunteers, magicians and a host of other occupations all adapting and interpreting the Sikh traditions in their own way.”

Check out more info about the project here.

And be sure to follow the progress of the exhibition on Facebook and Twitter.

- S

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BADASS BROWN GIRL - KIRAN GANDHI - DRUMMER, BUSINESS WOMAN AND ACTIVIST

"As long as you have a sense of what matters to you, decisions come quite naturally."

We both loved this fantastic TED talk by BROWNGIRL Kiran Gandhi! 

Kiran is simultaneously playing drums for MIA on tour and studying for her MBA at Harvard University. Extremely eloquent, dope and passionate she speaks about her experiences and her theory of ‘Atomic Living’. 

A BROWNGIRL inspiration!

- S

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JAGMEET SINGH AND GURRATAN SINGH

Watch and learn guys, watch and learn. 

These two amazing males are brothers Jagmeet and Gurratan Singh. Find out more about what influences their style and ethos here

Have a peek at Gurratan’s Tumblr for more lovely pics and things :)

Did I mention we now have a Facebook page? Well I did now. Go ‘like’ it!

- S

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PHOENIX READY FOR FLIGHT

MONICA DOGRA X TBG

Singer, actor, performer, designer; many words describe but can’t define Monica Dogra, a multi-dimensional, holistic artist. She’s been making waves in India as part of electronic music duo ‘Shaa’ir + Func’ but is now rising to be an all-around icon. 

TBG caught up with Monica to understand the experiences and thoughts about her journey so far.

1. We love what you do and admire your courage in pioneering the Indian indie music scene! We want to learn more about your journey, as two brown girls. Why did you decide to move to India from America?

Hey, thank you! I really appreciate that.

 I moved completely on a whim, totally unplanned, and shocked the hell out of my family. I studied musical theatre in NYC and afterwards got my first show in a union production of Fanny at the Citigroup Center. After that, I was the arab dancing girl in a production of Love’s Fire. I was baking cookies at an ad agency in the afternoons, and bar-tending at night. I like to think I am pretty smart, and I definitely didn’t feel like I was in a position of value all too often.

I was sort of stuck in an artistic identity crisis. I didn’t know how to be a Brown Girl in a world that was constantly pegging me as “Brown”, “exotic”, “ethnically ambiguous”, “sexy”, “hot”. What did that mean? I just wanted to be a hippie chick, rocking torn jeans, crying while I laughed, spitting poetry, writing mash up music that represented how mashed up I felt. I’ve never been just one thing…but I desperately wanted to fit in and slot in to a world that made me feel pretty lonely.

So, in that space, I went to India and took time away to explore it on my own. In about five days, my world turned upside down. I was around Indian people in Bombay, with tattoos, in metal bands, people who grew up listening to ABBA and The Beatles - and they were all Indian. No one could say they weren’t proper Indian. They lived in India. In a way, India emancipated me from being chained by an Indian Identity that was imposed upon me, and allowed me to create a new Indian Identity that was rooted in truth. 

In ten days, I quit all my projects, wrapped up my life, and moved to India. I crashed on strangers floors, and hopped around Bombay, finding my first band-mates along the way, and playing my first ever original shows on the road. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. But, I could feel in my gut, that I was on the right track.

2. What have been the highs and lows of adjusting and settling in India over the years?

This is a tough one. It’s been 8 years! I can site a recent high…I was on the cover of Maxim, and the very same week the magazine came out, I played a show for Women’s Day in Bombay. It was my band-mate, Randolph’s idea that we all go cross-dressed. It was a sort of in your face reaction to all the objectification, gender pressure put on people these days. I felt so loved and confident in my boys clothes, in my home city - after giving a short speech about watching all my peers in the music fraternity crowd surfing, and feeling left out because I’m worried I’ll get felt up I finally jumped into the arms of my people, and it was ALL GOOD. I don’t think a woman in India has ever been able to do such a thing. I felt so clear about who my tribe is. We represent a new and pervasive energy that will take over.

A low point would be in the beginning when S+F played quite small venues that didn’t have proper sound. I once got badly electrocuted on stage. I sweat so much - so my body was basically a conductor. The audience kept shouting for me to sing and I had never felt so alone. I realized in that moment how much of an object you are. You aren’t a real person to your fans. I suppose, it is a major theme in my work, to be a REAL person…relatable…attainable…touchable…flawed…but still, special I guess.

3. Your music and film work has gone from strength to strength. How do you balance these two aspects of your creative self and what are your aspirations for the future?

I don’t know how I balance. I do know that I don’t allow myself to stop. It’s my job to keep innovating, to keep trying to improve. I’m not the type who is content in one thing and my artistic efforts reflect that diversity in creativity.

I’m releasing a line of clothing in a months time. It’s street wear that aims at being affordable. It’s grungey, rock and roll and pays homage to the concept of Bombay. Not Mumbai (whatever that means).

Also, I have a solo record releasing in August and I’m releasing my 5th album with S+F in September! I just finished shooting a short film in LA, and India is up in arms about it’s “lesbian content” (uh. whatever). I just shot a music video that I conceptualised and cast myself in NYC, which is being edited as I type this. It’s going to be a crazy year! I feel like a cloud is lifting. 2013 was a tough one…and I’m ready for flight.

4. Last but not least, what advice or guidance would you give to young, brown girls?

ah! I’m so honoured that I can even be in a position to give advice man! Uhhh.

I’d tell brown girls around the world to spend a lot of time with yourself. Be comfortable with alone. Alone is an awesome thing…don’t get it twisted.

Once you know yourself so well, once no one can shake you, chances are you’ll know your path and you’ll have the courage to walk it. Be relentless. Be resilient…and never measure time. It’s a useless obsession.

Remember this quote as well…I love it. "All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man" - Thoreau

We really admire the work that Monica does and can’t wait to see where her journey will take her next!

- A&S x

Photo credits:

1. Akshay Sawant

2. Wearabout

3. Veda Raheja

4. Monica Dogra

5. Cory Goldberg

6. Dewarists

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MIA - BRING THE NOIZE - OFFICIAL VIDEO

Staying true to her roots BROWNGIRL Matangi blows expectations out of the water once again with her brand new video for her fresh single ‘BRING THE NOIZE’. 

The rolling rhythms and grumbling lyrics remind me of her early ‘Bucky Done Gun’ days but she’s definitely taken it next level with the visual themes and explosive imagery. 

What do you think of her new work?

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"NOT EXOTIC" - TOTES BY SANAA HAMID

My simple, statement and super-useful tote bag by Sanaa Hamid came last week!

Ended up taking it out for a shopping trip in Leicester on the weekend :)

Sanaa is a wonderful photographer with both digital and film formats. She created a collection of cute and clever totes as part of her Kickstarter project to shoot in Pakistan. 

Interview feature about her trip coming soon to TBG <3

Grab the last of the tote bags while you can over at her website!

- S

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TWO-BROWNGIRLS X BANGLEBANGER

When we saw that beautiful BROWNGIRL Anjana Raj had released genius desi diasporic style blog BANGLE BANGER, we were eager to find out more. 

Here she is talking about her background, perspective and aesthetic in an exclusive interview film for TWO-BROWNGIRLS made by Papadam Productions. 

Keep an eye on Anjana on Instagram and Tumblr to see where BANGLE BANGER will take her next!

- A&Sx

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'DARK IS BEAUTIFUL' CAMPAIGN MAKING REAL CHANGES?

After coming across a recent article which highlights how the skin lightening industry has seen a profit decline in the past year I thought "FINALLY WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS!"

When we visited India earlier this year, we couldn’t stop ourselves being outraged at the sheer amount of skin lightening products that line the shelves. But we also realised that many people act in innocence (or ignorance) to what they’re doing to themselves by trying to become lighter. As ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign founder Nandita Das aptly summarises, 

"It is actually a vicious circle — the fashion and beauty industries are catering to the ‘dark skin complex’, and in fact, creating a complex so they can cash in on it. The media is creating a furore about the attractiveness of white or fair skin, luring the dark-skinned individual into buying a product that will put them in the ‘attractive’ slot. So it would not be wrong to say that the industry and media are working hand-in-glove in victimising the customer, who is nothing more than a consumer to them."

In this way, being lighter is and has been seen as synonymous with ‘more attractive/successful/beautiful/valued/desirable.’

It’s encouraging that there is some evidence to suggest that things are changing. We hope to live to see the day that Fair & Lovely is taken off the shelves! 

Follow the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign here and on Facebook

- S

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FREEDOM OF FOOD AND THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

One of the unique practices of Sikhi is the sharing of ‘Langar’ or communal kitchen. Founded by Guru Nanak Dev ji, the concept is for people of all backgrounds to come together to cook and eat free food on an equal basis. Eating together is such a simple yet sacred and fundamental human practice and I can’t think of a more humbling and practical way to put to action such humanitarian values.

The Source Project has some stunningly shot, insightful mini-documentaries on social practices and issues. This one above filmed in the Golden Temple is an example of perhaps the largest practice of langar in the world.

- S

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SERAI DESIGN COLLECTION @ GOOD EARTH 

We’re in love with the ‘Serai’ Collection at one of our favourite stores, ‘Good Earth’.

"The designs in “Serai” are structured in the manner of a Modern Tapestry. Each one tells a part of the story of the romantic journey of Emperor Jehangir and Noor Jehan to Kashmir from the dusty plains of Delhi, the elements of nature they would have encountered on the way, as well as capturing the decorative motifs that were a part of their own world…The ”Mehrab” - the filter through which they would have viewed the world provides a framework that runs in the background and also a window looking out to the birds, the flowers and the Cypress trees that pass by."

A beautiful design concept teamed with intricate details, layers and gorgeous colours makes the interior design collection truly timeless. I’d love to get my hands on those glass tumblers! Hmmm… maybe the next trip to India :)

For more info and updates, follow Good Earth on Facebook. 

- S

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INDIAN WOMEN THROUGH THE AGES

I was left completely mesmerised by these rare photographs of women that were featured on the BBC website last week.

The photos are from a new exhibition in Delhi curated by Tasveer Arts and Cinnamon to highlight how picture technology changed the circulation and portrayal of the female image from the 1850s to the 1950s.

"These photographs take us on a journey from colonial studies of Indian women in the 19th century, to private studio portraits from the early 20th century, and then to iconic and glamorous photographs of Bollywood actresses from the 1940s and 50s."

My favourite has got to be the leaning dancer, just chillin with her quirky shoes on.

- S

Who’s your fave?

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THE POWER BEHIND KINDNESS - BALPREET KAUR

The great Balpreet Kaur (known for her loving response to a picture of her that was posted online) recently gave a speech at TedxOhioStateUniversity about her actions that have been inspired by values that are not only fundamental to the Sikh faith, but also universal to humanity. 

You can check out her wonderful response to the picture that was posted of her here. She speaks of her facial hair as embracing the natural state of her body and allows her to speak with her actions.

"By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?"

Balpreet is a great inspiration to all BROWNGIRLS to have the courage and passion to follow your heart for the greater good and to stand up for what you believe in a dignified, loving way. 

- S