South Asian creatives you should follow this Heritage Month

Today marks the final day of the UK’s first ever South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM). Established by Dr Binita Kane and Jasvir Singh, the month celebrated the intricacies of our rich cultures, as well as offering insights into South Asian history such as partition, which led to many Desi people migrating to the UK, US, and other countries in the West.

Whilst SAHM draws to a close, the limitless creativity of South Asian talent lives on, so here are a handful of the best brown creatives for you to enjoy. From beauty and style inspiration, sweet sounds to listen to, and appealing artwork to feast your eyes on, there’s a wealth of underrated South Asian talent that deserves your attention.

Beauty and style:

@lifesforliving – Known for her self-described Indo-Western style ventures, blogger and social media and brand consultant, Afshan Nasseri posts all things fashion and culture. Her content ranges from her outfit posts in Indian clothes (which serve as great inspiration for any Asian event) to posts about relevant social issues. She also frequently discusses her dual Indian-Iranian heritage, as well as her sense of identity growing up in the States.

@simran – Journalist and model Simran Randhawa is probably one of the most recognised South Asian faces on Instagram. Well-known for her edgy East-West fusion beauty and fashion looks, her persona and style are effortlessly cool. She also weaves in a lot of political and social discourse on her page, and offers insight into her experiences as a British Indian woman.

@cocobeautea – Blogger and Youtuber Hannah Desai is the epitome of sleek and stylish minimalism. The snaps of her sophisticatedly understated outfits set against various city backgrounds are interspersed with the odd makeup and hair tutorial – more of which can be found on her YouTube channel.

@supriya_lele – this up and coming designer already has a Vogue magazine feature under her belt. She creates fashion pieces that channel both her Indian heritage and western upbringing. Characterised by bold 90s styles, colours and layer, her pieces are beautifully unique. With her clothes having already been worn by the likes of Bella Hadid, she is definitely one to watch on the fashion scene.

@theasianman_ – South Asian men in the fashion industry isn’t something we see every day, but this Instagram account is trying to change that. Posting the versatile and creative outfits of various stylish South Asian men from across the world, you can see pictures that range from refined suits to traditional kurtas to cool streetwear.

Musicians:

@joycrookes – Born to a Bangladeshi mother and Irish father, Joy Crookes is a South London born singer-songwriter. Nominated for the Rising Star Award at this year’s Brits Awards, she is already hugely popular. Her music and writing are inspired by her own heritage, experiences and also political and social issues, paired with her softly confident voice – they’re easy to resonate with. Her Instagram is filled singing snippets and posts of her cool Asian British hybrid outfits.

@lisamishramusic – Singer-songwriter Lisa Mishra began posting covers of Bollywood songs on YouTube as a teenager, and is now signed to a huge record label. Based in Chicago and Mumbai, her mash up cover on Instagram of Indian song Tareefan and Justin Bieber’s Let Me Love You caught the attention of actress Sonam Kapoor, and she was soon propelled to stardom. She has since sung on many records, and is definitely one to watch on the Bollywood scene.

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This is an ad for a showerhead 🚿

A post shared by Lisa Mishra (@lisamishramusic) on

@raveena_aurora – Raveena Aurora is an American based singer-songwriter who has made waves with her distinctive voice and South Asian and Western inspired music. She adamantly remains rooted in her South Asian culture, whilst also blending in elements of R&B and her own diaspora experience so has found a loyal fanbase in many young people.

Artists:

@shehzilm – Shehzil Malik is a Pakistani artist keen to use art to propagate social change. Her digital illustrations are beautifully intricate, and often depict ethnic re-imaginings of Western concepts and people, as well as feminist imagery. She also launched Pakistan’s first feminist fashion line in 2018 which challenged traditional stereotypes about women.

@hafandhaf – Pakistani American artist, Hafsa Khan’s page is full of amazing illustrations which represent the East-West dichotomy through pop art drawings, such as traditional South Asian accessories, paired with American sneakers. Although she focusses mainly on South Asian culture, she also does beautiful calligraphy. She runs an online shop wherein you can buy prints and phone cases of her work as well as sweatshirts with her illustrations on them.

@zoyerss – Using graphic design, artist Zoya depicts socio-political issues, such as India’s use of Fair & Lovely cream, Kylie Jenner not paying her Bangladeshi workers, and the genocide of Uyghur Muslims. Through eye catching and cleanly drawn illustrations, she is bringing much needed awareness to important topics. As well as this, she depicts iconic Bollywood scenes, and bold illustrations of South Asian women combined with text such as ‘no, I’m not forced to wear this’.

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#unfairandlovely I remember being in elementary school and watching my friend get ridiculed by boys because she had dark skin. I didn’t realize it then, because in my eyes we came from the same place, we looked the same, we were both brown. But as i got older i realized that I hold an unfortunate privilege because of my skin tone. There is an unhealthy obsession with Fair skin which is deeply rooted within the south asian culture. Colour prejudice is embedded into so much more than we care to think about and/or discuss. When you think of your favourite bollywood actresses, most of them are fair skinned and white passing. Even female characters who were supposed to be “south Indian” usually are played by actresses who are very light. Being “fair” is seen as an asset and signifier of value. Even as a kid I remember hearing remarks from my girlfriends about how they don’t like playing in the sun too much because they feared they would get too dark. From Haldi masks to Bleaching creams there’s always been a concerning level of colourism within our culture. It’s sad to see that even now women who don’t fall into Foundation shade “neutral beige” or lighter won’t be seen worthy enough for certain opportunities. All brown is beautiful !!! & a side note to all my aunties out there, stop putting lemon juice in your Haldi masks! Please! you will not come out of that battle looking like a fair skinned katrina, you’re just damaging your skin. Pls. • • • • I used the very talented @hamelpatel_ as a reference for this drawing! • • • #colourism #indian #womenempowerment #feminism #indianfeminist #womensupportingwomen #graphicart #followback #browngirlgang #browngirl #desiart #southasianart #southasianartist #melanin #melaninart #fairandlovely #empowerment #bollywoodactress #bollywood #pakistaniartists #pakistaniart #contentcreator #featureme #newartist #artistsoninstagram #followme #feminist #femaleartist #brownartist

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Education:

@_thejuggernaut – The Juggernaut is an online publication keen to deliver stories that matter to South Asians. Their articles cover all bases as they discuss politics, culture, history and sports – all written by South Asian writers. Especially for young people in the community, The Juggernaut is a refreshing take on journalism, as many stories that represent our culture and history, which are often not reported on, are done so in a meaningful and relevant way.

@southasianbookclub – As the name suggests, this account recommends books written by South Asian authors. Whether you’re looking to read books by people who share your experiences and heritage, or you’re wanting to venture into something new, their recommendations are perfect for you. As well as discussing what books to read, they also mention South Asian poetry which is also really beautiful, and has informed a lot of the literature we read now.

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This post is to mark the independence days of Pakistan and India, 14th and 15th August 1947. Lines on a map are so innocuous – they hide the histories, stories and violence that leads people to draw a line dividing themselves from the perceived ‘Other’. In 1947, the Urdu poet Faiz wrote (translated) ‘this isn’t surely the dawn with whose desire cradles in our hearts, we had set out, friends all, hoping we should somewhere find the final destination of the stars in the forests of heaven’. It was the year Pakistan and India gained independence from the British. Faiz wrote of his disappointment and horror at the violence that precipitated the birth of these countries, as communal violence ravaged large parts of the northern Indian subcontinent. With divisions demarcated on religious lines, friends turned on friends, neighbours on neighbours. Conservative estimates acknowledge that hundreds of thousands died in the violence. The British and new governments of India and Pakistan had not expected this and had no security plans. In some areas, the idea of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others living together was over for good. As a British Asian, Kavita Puri brings these stories home in this collection of testimonies from the time of Partition. She interviewed people, now living in the UK, who had terrifying experiences in 1947 mostly as children. It is powerful reading, and vital. The most important thing for me in this book is the sentence – ‘This is part of British history – not niche British South Asian history’. I couldn’t agree more. This is mainstream British history and it should be taught fully in schools. It made me think of my maternal grandparents, who migrated as adolescents from Meerut (India) to Karachi in 1948. Now just my Nani is alive. If it’s not too difficult for her to talk about, I’d love to ask her about her experiences the next time I see her. Do you have any family stories of Partition? What does it mean to you and your family?

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@browngirltherapy – Described as a mental health community for children of immigrants, this account posts all about wellbeing, therapy, and takes a look at social issues too. From Instagram Lives with mental health professionals, to posts about how it feels to have a dual identity – it has curated a really useful and unique place of kinship that provides genuine understanding and comfort for young South Asians, by showing the community that they are not alone in their experiences.

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