twobrowngirlsblog

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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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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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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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‘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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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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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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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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LATA MANGESHKAR AND ASHA BHOSLE - BBC DOCUMENTARY

Which TWO-BROWNGIRLS have sold more records than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones? Pick up any classic Bollywood song and you’ll know the answer.

Legendary sisters of voiceovers, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle have fascinating life stories and have made an incredible multitude of work. There’s a really good, fairly recent BBC broadcast documentary about them that is definitely worth checking out >>here<<

In the meantime I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Lata Mangeshkar pieces from the 1955 movie, Seema. 

- S

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SEETAL’S SHAADI INSPIRATION BOARD - PINTEREST

Okay, who doesn’t have a wedding board on Pinterest!?

But I suppose I actually have good reason, since I’m getting married next year! Plus, it also feeds my unhealthy Sabyasachi obsession. (I’m addicted to Band Baajaa Bride btw) 

Anyways, I thought I’d invite you all to share the love and check out where I’m getting my inspiration from…

Find my Pinterest board >> here <<

Would love to know what you think so do let me know if you have any ideas or advice for a Punjabi ‘voti-to-be’! <3

- S

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PARDEEP SINGH - SINGH STREET STYLE - “DON’T FREAK, I’M SIKH”

Hats-off to Pardeep Singh, founder of the popular blog ’Singh Street Style’ who went deeper than fashion in this viral video in which he writes himself, ‘don’t freak, I’m Sikh’.

The message is as simple, sharp and clear as the stunning scenes of London. A clear summarisation of the basic Sikh principles, Pardeep Singh does a great job of upholding identity and dispelling negative stereotypes. 

Follow Singh Street Style on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to show your support for this great new movement. 

- S

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MINDY KALING - ADORABLE OR ANNOYING?

Yeah so I can’t make my mind up about Mindy Kaling. On the one hand she’s super successful, hard-working and in her own words, “a f**king Indian woman with her own f**ing TV show.” So a massive kudos to her as well as her awesome honesty about ‘body image’. Rated. 

But it’s her superficiality and attraction to American materialistic celebrity culture that I find irritating. Where’s the depth? Or am I just missing the joke?

In any case, this mini-video of a 'behind-the-scenes’ of her Vogue shoot is pretty hilarious and a good piss-take of some similar situations she’s probably had to deal with. The interview on Vogue.com is pretty cute too,

[On Mindy Lahiri] “Her character seesaws between insecurity and an almost delusional self-confidence, and says things like “I don’t want coffee cake—I’m still full from that chia seed I had last night.”

So I’m still in two minds about her. But at the end of the day, respect her for what she does because, like she said herself, she’s certainly changing the face of American TV. 

- S

Curious to know what you guys think of Mindy. Maybe you can help me come to a decision?