For a week in October 2017, Twitter users all over the world logged in to find that their timelines had become a virtual exhibition space for South Asian artists. A hashtag started by design student and illustrator Fatima Wajid, #SouthAsianArtists trended on the microblogging site with graphic designers, cartoonists and illustrators uploading their art, introductions to their work and aesthetic style.
Wajid’s simple but brilliant idea, “To support all South Asian Artists on the interwebz!” yielded some truly incredible results.
The fabulous display of talent from across countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives covered most genres – ranging from folk and pop-art to anime and children’s book illustrations. For people like Anoosha Syed, it was about drawing herself into the world of cartoons. Describing herself as a “Pakistani Character designer”, Syed’s contributions tackled the often overlooked issue of representing brown people in popular art.
Others, like Chennai-based Subadra Kalyanaraman chose to showcase what they could do with folk art. Kalyanaraman posted pictures of the ubiquitous aluminium kettle found at every Indian street corner tea shop and wall art painted by her in the Madhubani tradition of Bihar.
Pakistani-Canadian Eiynah Mohammed-Smith uploaded four images, each one blending together themes of religion and sexuality. In one image an Indian woman and a Pakistani woman share a passionate kiss, their hair a map of their respective nations. In another a woman in a hijab suggestively licks a banana. The artist, who started off as a sex blogger, describes herself as “a woman, writer and illustrator of Pakistani/Muslim background who often critiques religion, both the far-right in the East and the West”, on her website.
A Telugu artist based in India, Lohitha Kiran, tweeted out medical sketches of the anatomy of the human brain and the heart along with a sketch of two transgender people. The illustrator is based in the US has worked on various botanical illustrations and graphic novels on transgender health and diabetes.
Jawad Cheema, an artist, stand-up comedian and screenwriter shared some of his fan art featuring pop-culture characters such as the Marvel anti-hero Deadpool and Tyrion Lannister from the popular series Game of Thrones.