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It’s the month for all things love.

While we already know love is love is love is love is love… and embrace every part of this, so much attention this month has also been on a Bollywood love story attempting to make a giant leap. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, starring Sonam Kapoor, is a not-so-simple love story about a woman who has a secret many South Asian families may not be able to handle. With positive reviews already, some Vancouver and Tornto Didis joined us to watch the film on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Meet the Didis:

Fresh off her first solo exhibit in January, Romana Kassam’s love for art has allowed her to make visual storytelling a full-time gig. From Toronto, the self-taught artist uses a variety of mediums to express what it means to be a woman of colour. Check out our interview with her below.

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Tell me more about your journey and getting into visual arts.

I have always been an artist in everything I do, wear, say, but I did not actually venture into art as a business until three years ago when I quit my corporate job to start a custom bridal mehndi company called My Mehndi Story.
I would work with brides and grooms to get their love story and then create custom mehndi designs to adorn the bride with on her wedding day. I did this for a little over a year and then decided I wanted to make a larger impact and I moved my expression onto walls and started doing corporate murals.
While this is fun and can pay well depending on your client, it sometimes restricts your personal creative expression. I recently have made the switch to sharing my stories through canvas art and have never felt more fulfilled creatively in my life.

What are some projects you are working on? And why are they important to you?

I just finished my first-ever solo exhibition titled, masks X molds, which explored the duality of the lived experience of the South Asian diaspora in Canada, and the concessions that are made to blend in using visual art, light and sound. This show was important to me because it was my first real attempt at being a legit commercial artist that managed to pull off a four-day multi-sensory show that also featured a panel discussion without the help of a gallery.

There have been several success stories for South Asian womxn turning their art into mainstream consumption, but there are still barriers for WOC to expand. Why do you think this is?

I think access is the biggest barrier in my opinion: access to mentorship, financial assistance, gallery space etc. The truth is the commercial art industry is still a predominantly white space… and the more we continue to create and share the more that changes.

Talk about representation when it comes to visual arts.

In December I went to Miami Art Basel, the largest art festival in the world. I was there as an artist doing research to understand what is out there in the art world, how artists are pricing their work etc. I went to at least five different conventions and while some of the art was nice, I could not help but be sad about the lack of representation of the South Asian diaspora. The entire Asian continent was not represented in fact.
This experience inspired me to create masks X molds because our stories deserve to be shared and our voices deserve to be heard. Representation matters and I want us to be able to see ourselves in the commercial fine art world.

What would be your advice for anyone interested in this craft?

Invest in yourself and your craft, no one else will if you don’t.

What we’re reading:
Our very own didi Mani Jassal (who will debut her new line “With Love” during Toronto Fashion Week on Feb. 7), was recently profiled on CBC on how she uses her South Asian roots to recreate what it means to create Canadian fashion.

Tattoos are a beautiful thing and these South Asian womxn are not afraid to show it. Recently, Bustle looked into some of the barriers, taboos and stunning art that goes into getting inked. And while some of us may be discouraged to get our own, these womxn believe tattoos are important to accept one’s identity.

And since we are on the topic of love this month, Vice also has a collection of striking photos on what it means to be South Asian and queer.

What we’re watching:

With all the focus on Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, we also wanted to give a shout out to all the brown kids (and teacher) on Netflix’s Sex Education. While they may not be main characters, it’s refreshing to see South Asians talk about things like sex, friendship and insecurities freely.

— Arti Patel

Issue 12

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