cat indian

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Jal Mahal is a grand palace situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Rajasthan, India. The lake is a man made lake that was created due to the shortage of water in 1596 A.D. Jal Mahal was then built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and is the perfect example of Rajput architecture. The first four floors are located underneath the water and the final top floor is above. In the reserve forest area surrounding the lake is a plethora of wildlife, including deer, jungle cats, hyena, leopards and Indian fox. The lake itself also boasts of glorious and impressive wildlife, including flamingo, pintail, kestrel, marsh sandpiper, among many others.

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Set of postcards I made for Shanghai Comic Con, less than two weeks away!

8 species of cats in Starfleet uniforms from various periods in Startrek history. Because of the international nature of Starfleet, I picked cats from each continent/region of the Earth (sans Australia, since it doesn’t have native cats)

Pallas Cat - Central Asia

Tiger - Indian Subcontinent

Asian Golden Cat - East Asia

Serval - Subsaharan Africa

Caracal - North Africa and Middle East

Jaguarundi - South America

Bobcat - North America

European Wild Cat - Europe


Come see me at Shanghai Comic Con on November 5-6! I will be Artist Alley table 38!

“It is extremely hard to write with precision or authority on anything Indian. There are always varieties. Too many varieties. It is so with our foods and languages, our costumes and castes. 

It is so with our pariah dogs.”

 - M. Krishnan, “The Pariah,” Nature’s Spokesman (1944): 194.

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Not 50/50: A Photo Essay

Art Direction: Farah Billah

Model: Azka Arafat, Farah Billah

Photography: Feadal Arafat  

 farahbillah.com/5050

I’ve been listening to Anik Khan’s “Cleopatra” recently. Aside from the Jiya Jale sample side stepping into hip hop in a way that makes the young Bollywood dancer in my heart nostalgic, another part of the song caught my attention: diamonds and gold. It made me think of the women he’s talking about, the ideas correlated with precious jewels and metals, and how we relate it to who we are as immigrants, as sons and daughters of immigrants, as a people who are not here nor there but still shining. I love when art inspires art, especially when that art comes from creative expression charged with cultural pride and promise. 

It inspired me to craft characters out of myself and my sister-in-law, Azka Arafat (an incredible spirit), who represent and illustrate that pride. 

In recent years, there has been a rise in American street style collaborating with Indian Subcontinental designs and patterns. There’s been Bollywood and American musical mash-ups and Motown covers with classic Hindi songs. There’s poetry transcending model minority stereotypes as well as traditional pressures in immigrant homes. And on the large scale, kurtas are everywhere. Desi culture has been seeping into the western lifestyle for decades through food, fashion, and everything else. 

And here we are, with expectations coming at us from both sides about who we are supposed to be. 

There are two sides to this: representation and appropriation. The latter has made headlines and caused many eye rolls at the retail fashion industry at large. When I say appropriation, I’m pointing at Ganesha tank tops, festival “face gems” (bindis), and the like, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. 

I’m talking about Hafsa Khan, Hybrid Hues, Nimisha Bhanot, and so many more. I’m talking about taking on the first generation identity with two hands. This is about who we are. I can’t put a percentage of how much of my parents I make up, of how traditional I am based on how many times I’ve been to that country, or based on how well I speak the language. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to make roti, or if I’ve been socialized in California. I am not 50/50 but 100 percent of this amalgam of cultures. One is not better than the other, one is not more acceptable than the other, nor is one more necessary than the other. We are the melting pot. A homogeneous mixture of east and west. Diamonds and gold. All of this is being taken hold of and crafted into something we can relate to through fashion, music, dance, and visual art. It’s Poonam and Priyanka. It’s Anik Khan. They are us. 

This collaboration of cultural influence with western upbringing is representation when it comes from this place of self expression and has allowed so many a means for self discovery, self awareness, community solidarity, and self realization. That’s what it’s been for me.