'Lucid Dreams And Distant Visions': A Diverse Representation Of The South Asian Community

'Lucid Dreams And Distant Visions': A Diverse Representation Of The South Asian Community

South Asian heritage takes the spotlight.
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It’s strange to see myself reflected in the darkness of the charcoal portrait. Chitra Ganesh’s "Devika Rani (2012)," depicts a woman far too regal to encounter me. The subject features an elaborate headpiece, a bindi above her brows, and eyes that are hauntingly beautiful. Dressed in jeans and having just taken a final, my reflection mars her work. It is, however, an incredible feeling to find art I see myself represented in; there aren't many museums where I can find a portrait of a woman adorned with a bindi.

The Asia Society Museum, from June 27th to August 6th, 2017, features "Lucid Dreams and Distant Visions: South Asian Art in the Diaspora." Only a four-minute walk from the 68th Street stop on the 6 train, the Asia Society Museum exclusively displays traditional and contemporary Asian art. The current exhibit includes nineteen contemporary artists from the South Asian diaspora, all of whom now live in the United States, and possess work spanning four decades. Collectively, the group depicts the South Asian experience: socially, culturally, and with regards to the tensions in the international sociopolitical climate.

Though the exhibit only occupies the second floor of a relatively small museum, it is unassumingly powerful. I was emotionally overwhelmed once finished with it; its impact is difficult to put into words.

Anila Quayyum Agha's "Crossing Boundaries," is arguably the most 'Instagrammable' feature of the exhibit, but the laser-cut steel and light bulb installation reflects the contradictory qualities inherent in the immigrant experience. The geometric patterns of the installation are meant to mimic those of traditional mosques in Pakistan. Being a woman, Agha was excluded from these while growing up in Pakistan. The space that her art creates, however, is open to people of all creed, color, and belief.

There are incredibly diverse portrayals of the South Asian community: portraits of overlooked silent-film actors, paintings of Muslims in various fields of work, critiques of appropriated South Asian culture in Western Society, and short films about Tibetan refugees. While some artists provide very direct imagery of the social and cultural makeup of their homelands, others are more layered in their depiction of cross-cultural tensions and racial boundaries.

The impact of a place on a person's work is resonant throughout the exhibit. Ruby Chishti's "The Present is a Ruin Without the People," pictured below, represents the spaces that individuals have unwillingly left in times of conflict and war. Chishti attempts to demonstrate the relationship that forms between the personal experiences that immigrants encounter, and the singular narratives that are applied to them as a group.The numerous textiles she uses, like so many of the artworks displayed, prompt questions over the endless, and varied stories hidden in them.

Overwhelmingly, the exhibit combats the xenophobia and nationalism that flood our nation. The artists widen the narrative surrounding immigrants and attempt to rid viewers of their existing stereotypes, providing detailed individual stories and trials. They reveal how little anyone, (and even I, a child of South Asian descent), knows about history; people of color have been so severely overlooked.

Coincidentally, the exhibit meets with the seventieth anniversary of Indian independence from British rule. The art displayed celebrates the genuine expression of South Asian lives, in all of their duality.

For immigrants, the children of them, and anyone of South Asian descent, this exhibit is no less than a love letter to you. It ends on August 6th, 2017. Don't miss an opportunity to see your heritage take the spotlight.
Cover Image Credit: Sudeepa Singh / The Asia Society Museum

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Sorry Not Sorry, My Parents Paid For My Coachella Trip

No haters are going to bring me down.
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This piece is intended to be a satire of an experience at Coachella.

With Coachella officially over, lives can go back to normal and we can all relive Beyonce’s performance online for years to come. Or, if you were like me and actually there, you can replay the experience in your mind for the rest of your life, holding dear to the memories of an epic weekend and a cultural experience like no other on the planet.

And I want to be clear about the Beyonce show: it really was that good.

But with any big event beloved by many, there will always be the haters on the other side. The #nochella’s, the haters of all things ‘Chella fashion. And let me just say this, the flower headbands aren’t cultural appropriation, they’re simply items of clothing used to express the stylistic tendency of a fashion-forward event.

Because yes, the music, and sure, the art, but so much of what Coachella is, really, is about the fashion and what you and your friends are wearing. It's supposed to be fun, not political! Anyway, back to the main point of this.

One of the biggest things people love to hate on about Coachella is the fact that many of the attendees have their tickets bought for them by their parents.

Sorry? It’s not my fault that my parents have enough money to buy their daughter and her friends the gift of going to one of the most amazing melting pots of all things weird and beautiful. It’s not my fault about your life, and it’s none of your business about mine.

All my life, I’ve dealt with people commenting on me, mostly liking, but there are always a few that seem upset about the way I live my life.

One time, I was riding my dolphin out in Turks and Cacaos, (“riding” is the act of holding onto their fin as they swim and you sort of glide next to them. It’s a beautiful, transformative experience between human and animal and I really think, when I looked in my dolphin’s eye, that we made a connection that will last forever) and someone I knew threw shade my way for getting to do it.

Don’t make me be the bad guy.

I felt shame for years after my 16th birthday, where my parents got me an Escalade. People at school made fun of me (especially after I drove into a ditch...oops!) and said I didn’t deserve the things I got in life.

I can think of a lot of people who probably don't deserve the things in life that they get, but you don't hear me hating on them (that's why we vote, people). Well, I’m sick of being made to feel guilty about the luxuries I’m given, because they’ve made me who I am, and I love me.

I’m a good person.

I’m not going to let the Coachella haters bring me down anymore. Did my parents buy my ticket and VIP housing? Yes. Am I sorry about that? Absolutely not.

Sorry, not sorry!

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Harasta

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4 Reasons Why Dads Threatening Their Daughters' Boyfriends Aren't Funny

No guns, threats, or creepy infringement on their privacy necessary.
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This week, former NFL player Jay Feely caught Twitter's attention by posting a picture with his daughter and her prom date and a handgun.

While the comedic undertones of the photo are obvious, Twitter had a lot to say about the picture and most people weren't happy.

He has since issued a statement of clarification after the tweet went viral, acknowledging that gun safety is an important issue and clarifying that he was in fact joking. Unfortunately, though, the damage had already been done.

Feely is far from the only dad who's ever made this joke. It's a largely prevalent theme specifically among gun owners and in country music. Check out the song "Cleaning This Gun" for another example. It's catchy, I have to admit, I just listened to it again voluntarily the other day even though I don't agree with the central message.

But what's really the matter with this picture? After all, it's just dads being dads, right? Wrong. The political, historical, and gender-specific rhetoric behind the idea of dads protecting their daughters by threatening their boyfriends have all combined to create a lot of things wrong with this picture. Here are 4 of them.

1. Gun violence is no laughing matter

This theme has come up over and over and over again this year but it's one that continues to be relevant and timely. Gun violence is a very real issue, with thousands of deaths, dozens of mass shootings, and deep political biases, making it far from a joke. While there is a major difference between the handgun in Feely's picture and the assault weapons that have been at the center of recent mass shootings, threatening to shoot someone, particularly an unarmed teenager, is just poor humor.

2. Parents do not get a say in their daughters' sexual choices

From chastity rallies at churches to purity balls entrusting their sexual purity to their dads to presenting "virginity certificates" to dads at weddings (hint, you can't medically prove someone's a virgin), parents' obsession with their daughters' sexual behaviors, not their sons', mind you, just their daughters, is creepy, intrusive, and disgusting.

Decisions about whether or not to engage in sexual activity, at any point from high school to marriage and on to the rest of their lives, is up to the two people involved, not the parents, the church, the government, or any outside parties. By reinforcing the idea that the parent is in control of these decisions that their kids are supposed to make for themselves, parents like these are perpetuating archaic ideals, destroying the trust their children have in them, and setting them up for destructive sexual behavior down the line.

3. There is an extremely obvious (and dangerous) sexual double standard between boys and girls

While young women are told to guard their purity and that engaging in sexual activity makes them less worthwhile people, boys are encouraged to use sexual conquests to assert their dominance and their behaviors are not focused on nearly as much by parents, religious organizations, or sexual education programs.

If women are taught to remain virginal until marriage and homosexuality is frowned down upon, who exactly are these boys supposed to be having sexual conquests with? Beats me.

4. Sexual repression and rape culture go hand-in-hand

These parents criticize their daughters for participating in safe, monogamous sexual relationships but do not give the same attention and threats to people that threaten their wellbeing. By teaching your daughter that she can't trust you, you're setting her up for trouble down the line.

While this entire situation could be passed off as a harmless joke that got a little out of hand, it's obvious that the problems run deep and can have a lasting effect, especially on the girl at the center of the "joke." Bottom line, trust your kids. Believe that they have the self-respect and the critical thinking skills to make healthy relationship decisions and support them in making them. No guns, threats, or creepy infringement on their privacy necessary.

Cover Image Credit: Jay Feely: Twitter

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