The label #SouthAsianArtists (artists from South Asia) recently broke into Twitter. This is the third consecutive year that artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have shown their art with this label in an effort to do something about the lack of Asian representation in creative spaces online.
Fatima Wajid, a second year student of Visual Communication Design at the National School of Arts in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, started this idea of celebrating the work of artists from South Asia:
(RT to spread the word!) #SouthAsianArtists is coming back this weekend on Oct 12-13! Rules are simple: share a little about yourself with your work! Local and diaspora artists welcome !! Please share to get the word out✨✨✨ pic.twitter.com/ZuGl0MP84Z
– fatima ♡♡♡ (@fatimajpeg) October 10, 2019
(Retweet to spread the word spread!)
October 12 and 13
The third time is already lovely! The online viral exhibition of desi artists around the world is back for another round. Call to all …
Artists of South Asia.
Artists from South Asia return this weekend of October 12 and 13! The rules are simple: post something about yourself with your work! Welcome local artists and those living abroad! Please spread to spread the word.
His fellow artists answered the call immediately:
– NM (@nmdiariesx) October 17, 2019
Artists of South Asia.
Hello, I am a Bengali artist who loves the paintings of Bengali women. I also dabble in handwriting and even Arabic calligraphy. Artists from South Asia.
In conversation with Global Voices, Wajid explained how the label started:
Three years ago, Annabelle Hayford, an illustrator based in Los Angeles, started the hashtag #DrawingWhileBlack to highlight and celebrate Black artists all over the globe. This sparked a realization in me that in most social media spaces and art forums, Desi artists are absent. The lack of South Asian representation in online creative spaces really bothered me, so in collaboration with Annabelle, I started #SouthAsianArtists with the purpose of celebrating and highlighting South Asian artists to audiences all over the world. It is, for the most part, an online event, as the internet and social media help break down borders and allow people from all over the globe to connect in an instant. Many local and diaspora talent connected because of the convenience, availability and online nature of the event.
Three years ago, Annabelle Hayford, an illustrator who lives in Los Angeles, started the label #DrawingWhileBlack (N. of T., literly “draws black”, which plays with the similarity of the word black, “black”, with back, “Again, again”) to highlight and celebrate black artists worldwide. This generated in me an understanding that in most social media spaces and art forums, there are no desi artists (N. of T., term used by people living or originating in the Indian subcontinent to refer to themselves which avoids allusions to the state of origin and indicates a greater common identity). That there was no representation of South Asia in creative online spaces really bothered me, so in collaboration with Annabelle, I started #SouthAsianArtists with the purpose of celebrating and highlighting artists from South Asia to audiences around the world. For the most part, it is an online event, as internet and social media help to break down borders and allow people from all over the world to connect in an instant. A lot of local and foreign talent connected by the convenience, availability and online nature of the occasion.
In Wajid's experience, most local communities carry a stigma against the creative arts, which prevents people from following their artistic passions. He says that the lack of encouragement or appreciation of the community has had a negative effect on the creativity and processes of artists: “The positive representation of artists desi is incredibly necessary to create a progressive society, in cultural evolution.”
Therefore, its label is designed to show the work of artists of both genres from all countries of the region.
Umair Najeeb, from Pakistan, is currently working on creating a series of comics with local cultural superheroes:
– umair. (@UmairNajeebKhan) October 13, 2019
Hello, I am Umair, Pakistani illustrator and animator. I currently work on a comic book of local superheroes! Artists from South Asia.
Shehzil Malik, designer, illustrator and feminist passionate about design for social change, tweeted:
Hi I'm I'm Shehzil, a Pakistani illustrator and I like drawing women through my feminist pov! ???
– Shehzil Malik (@shehzilm) October 13, 2019
Hi, I'm Shehzil, a Pakistani illustrator, and I like to draw women through my feminist power! ???
In addition, this label is the best to discover amazing art! Artists from South Asia.
Des, Kashmir artist, published amazing works:
– ?CrypticTeeth? (@CrypticTeeth) October 12, 2019
Artists from South Asia.
I am Des and I am from Kashmir! I am a professional print printer, I draw many skulls, monsters and wild characters!
Sarika, an Indo-American visual development artist, also intervened:
Hi, I'm Sarika! I am an Indian-American visual development artist. I design for PBS Kids / Amazon shows. In my free time, I draw superheroes and ballerinas. #SouthAsianArtists pic.twitter.com/ANmrsy7mwz
– Sarika M (@mynabirdy) October 12, 2019
Hi, I'm Sarika! I am an Indo-American visual development artist. Design for PBS Kids and Amazon programs. In my spare time I draw superheroes and dancers. Artists from South Asia.
Esha, a budding artist from Bangladesh, is one of the youngest artists:
Hiya, I'm Esha / Mai, I'm a 16 year old from Bangladesh ?? !! I love drawing people, especially pretty girls !! I mostly do traditional pencil art, but dabble in digital sometimes !! #SouthAsianArtists pic.twitter.com/JoUBrE1o4P
– আলুর চিপ // Mai (@iwantsyrniki) October 12, 2019
Hi, I'm Esha / Mai, I'm 16 years old and I'm from Bangladesh ?? !! I love drawing people, especially beautiful girls! I usually do pencil art, but I've also dabbled in digital at times! Artists from South Asia.
Although both genders were represented in the works that were disseminated with the label, the majority of artists who participated were women – proof that despite the cultural norms that tend to confine women to specific fields (and in some cases, between four walls), now women are claiming their place in the arts and other creative tasks. The fact that so many women spread their works has inspired Wajid more:
Women artists are not given many opportunities to showcase their work, so to see so many talented Desi women use the hashtag to promote themselves has been an incredible experience. I plan to properly archive the activity in the near future and include the artists featured in #SouthAsianArtists in more creative projects.
Artists are not given many opportunities to exhibit their work, so seeing how many talented desis use the label to promote themselves has been an incredible experience. I plan to properly archive the activity in the near future and include leading artists from South Asia in more creative projects.
That is the other benefit of the label. Making known the work of artists from South Asia online is an innovative and inexpensive way to connect with people globally, and allow them to showcase their work. It takes them away from traditional places of art exhibition, democratizes their art and makes them accessible to a much larger audience, often taking much needed attention to them, they are the stereotype that artists must suffer to have fame.