two-browngirls

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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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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

GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN TIFFIN :: MANGO LASSI IN 3 EASY STEPS

Mangoes are my favourite fruit. The seven month ban on Alphonso mangoes has finally been lifted in the UK (I keep track of these things) in time for summer and my heart sang for joy at the news. As a young girl, my grandad would buy crates of mangoes that would last a few hours before the swarm of children gorged their way through the fleshy pulp. I love mango lassi too. I wish we had an Indian summer in England, but the closest we can get to replicating this is reminiscing about holidays in sunny climates over a chilled glass of mango lassi. This simple concoction of mango, yogurt, sugar and cardamom powder usually does the trick to help beat the (imaginary) heat!

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 can) of mangoes in syrup; East End stock a lovely Alphonso variety
  • 1 ½ cup natural yogurt
  • 1 cup whole milk(more if you desire a thinner lassi)
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (cinnamon is a great alternative)

Instructions

1) Pour the can of mangoes along with the syrup into a blender along with cardamom to create a pulp.

2) Mix in the yogurt, a little milk and blend again. Add the milk gradually until you achieve your ideal consistency. I like mine fairly thick and frothy so I add a cup.

3) Pour into lassi cups and top with crushed pistachios before serving.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts on TBG. If you want to stay updated with new recipes, check out www.girlwiththegoldentiffin.com where I post weekly ideas of what to cook next!

- Thahmina

We loved all of the wonderful guest posts from our girl Thahmina! Click here if you missed any, and don’t forget to check out her FB page for updates! 

NADINE IJEWERE :: CLOSE UP

Having first come across the incredible Nadine Ijewere’s work at the Cultural Bonds exhibition earlier this year, we were mesmerised with her photography, artistic vision and portraits! They are a creative and original representation of womanhood at its rawest, purest and most beautiful. Working with Nadine earlier this year on one of her personal projects, we at once realised her skilled professionalism, attention to detail and sheer integrity to her art form. We find out more… 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to Islam? How does your faith influence your work?

I became a Muslim in 2013 during my last year of university. Being in fashion school, I was surrounded by glossy images of women who were frequently objectified as this was the way fashion sells women. My work was never really provocative but it was all big productions hair makeup etc. Becoming a Muslim, Islam and these images of objectified women didn’t go hand in hand. I felt I couldn’t relate to these big productions in my work and that I was just producing nice images that carried stereotypes of cultural identity throughout the years.

I wanted to discover where these negative influences in the presentation of women came from. I knew that I wanted to produce imagery to challenge this and look at another side of beauty which is what I feel my work does.

In what ways do you think platforms like Instagram make photography less valuable and original?

Instagram is an odd one. Whilst it can be a very useful tool in terms of promoting your work, it can also be very detrimental at the same time. In essence, you’ve placed your work in the public eye; it’s there forever.

Instagram has also given a licence to everyone to become a photographer or ‘creative’. I think its made photography a ‘trendy’ hobby. For me, it takes away what photography is really about. I’ve definitely seen some amazing instagram accounts but I have also seen countless images with poor composition, out of focus images and a venetian filter laid on the top of a photo, which ultimately receives hundreds of comments and likes when no technical thought has gone into the image. Originality is another aspect Instagram exploits. 

Currently there is this flower trend happening; I’ve used flowers a lot in my work and I’m not saying I’m the first to use them or claim rights to this style, but both myself and my friends noticed that when I started doing my own interpretations and associations with flowers, more and more people started to do similar things.

No one seems original anymore. Everything is very similar and all about being ‘trendy’ right now. At the end of the day, everyone is of course entitled to do what they please. Instagram can be a very false platform in terms of popularity, integrity and honesty. However, for me its useful for sourcing people I want to cast for work as it opens up a wider range.

How would you describe your photographic style?

I would say its quite natural, raw and earthy. I use lots of textures and textiles, natural elements (such as lighting) and minimal styling. 

How do you balance your personal creative projects with professional commissions?

I’m honestly still the most disorganized person but I’m getting better! I try to shoot at least some parts of my own projects twice a month.

It was amazing to an get an insight into the artistic world of Nadine and share it with you all! Follow her on Instagram to keep up to date with her work! 

All photos c/o of Nadine Ijewere. Full portfolio can be viewed here

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DUKHTAR: 

Finally!

I’d heard news and hype around Pakistani Filmmaker Afia Nathaniel’s debut film Dukhtar but was itching to see its trailer! 

In the mountains of Pakistan, a mother and her ten-year-old daughter flee their home on the eve of the girl’s marriage to a tribal leader. A deadly hunt for them begins.

What makes the plot even more sinister is its reality; although not restricted to Pakistan, the custom of marrying young girls off to older men without any consent is strongly prevalent in the world. Perhaps a film as powerful as this one can challenge and defy this practice. 

Can’t wait to see how its received! Keep updated by following Dukhtar on Facebook and Twitter.

- A x 

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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.

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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.

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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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SAIRA HUNJAN – BEYOND THE SKIN

After one of our most popular posts reached over 8,000 reblogs and we received a flurry of questions from curious followers, we got in touch with extraordinary brown girl Saira Hunjan, to get a glimpse into her practice and artistic journey.

We meet at a vegan cafe in Camden Town and settle into our chai teas, a scrumptious cake and deep conversation. Saira wears a soft, white hat. Her beauty is instantly magnetic, with her kind expression, doe-like eyes and a delicate nose-ring that suits her perfectly. 

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Saira has had an incredibly successful career as a tattoo artist with a long waiting list and celebrity clients, but we wanted glimpse into where her passion is shifting now, from skin to everything.

“My dad was painting and listening to Pink Floyd and that massively influenced my life and the way I am now but it’s not like we weren’t a Sikh family. We still did certain things, but were never pressured.”

Saira grew up in a traditional family but was also surrounded by creativity and freedom to pursue her individual interests. It was in her teens that she began to unearth her culture and learn more about her ‘roots’. 

“I first went to India when I was 18 or 19 and went back when I was in my twenties, then I started going every year. It did something to me. I got there and thought 'I’m home’, my feet touched the ground and I was like 'this is it’." 

Her vision pieced together when she came across the tattooed women of the Rabari tribe in Rajasthan and thought, "Holy shit, that’s what I want to look like when I grow up.” In this way, Indian culture and art has been integral to Saira’s creative concepts and ideas from tattooing skin to designs on clothing, leather, paper and canvas. 

“Everything Indian is so decorative, so ornate, so beautiful. So that influence has always been there in my life really and I’ve always used it in my work. Every second of the day in India is so inspiring for me. It’s really nice to go to these kind of places and see things for myself that I’ve just seen in books. That’s the most powerful thing you know.”

Tattooing was Saira’s career but her real passion is for Indian art, design, craft and ornamentation. She also draws inspiration from Jean Paul Gaultier and mentions how she’d love to work with famous, psychedelic Indian designer, Manish Arora (a BROWNGIRL favourite!). In the past year or so, tattooing became too hectic for Saira and she moved out of London into an artistic sanctuary in the countryside.

Tucked away in solitude in her studio, Saira works away on intricate pencil, ink and graphite sketches. Her artistic process is somewhat visceral and mystical.

Inspiration comes to her, through her. Mythical beings, symbols and patterns as well as ornate natural features are themes in Saira’s delicate and precise work. In her home, she mentions, she feels safe, free and surrounded by the energy of female Devis.

She has exciting future plans, having recently lended her vision to many mediums in collaborations with companies such as Ettinger and Orlebar Brown. Despite the fact that London is sometimes too full-on for Saira, she has a couple of works on exhibition at the Pertwee, Anderson & Gold gallery space in Soho.

We’re looking forward to a new exhibition featuring 4ft drawings of Devi’s by Saira is in the process of being created and organised in collaboration with a London gallery.

“That’s the difference from tattooing, now I’m doing what I like for me, not just for someone else.”

We close up the conversation a couple of hours later and head out into crazy, bustling Camden.

It was so natural to meet and connect with Saira, which only goes to show that brown girls can connect on a deeper level, wherever they’re from and whatever they do. 

We’ll be sure to update you all on progress with her London exhibition but in the meantime catch Saira on her Tumblr 'The Girl with the Golden Needle’ where she regularly posts photo updates and inspiration. 

- S&A x  

Photo credits: Financial Times & John Wellings Photography

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NAUTANKI RANI :: FAHAD HUSSAYN

He’s one of my favourite Pakistani designers, and his Nautanki Rani pieces showcase exactly why! 

Inspired by the landscape of historic Multan and stunning Multani architecture, Fahad Hussayn’s most recent bridal collection is at once royal, elegant, traditional yet contemporary. I love the flirty colours and short kameez of Shah-e-Bagh and the pops of yellow, blue and peach he’s incorporated in Subah

Wish I was getting married again just so I could wear one of these! To the same guy though, obvs ;-) 

- A x 

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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