We Speak To Some #BOBBAExhibition Artists 6 Months Later

In March, it was not only Burnt Roti's 2nd birthday, but also the 6 month anniversary of our groundbreaking exhibition: The Beauty of Being British Asian. In order to celebrate these moments we speak to some of the BOBBA artists to see what they're doing now and what the exhibition meant to them.

Jannat Hussein

 Left, Jannat's pieces for the BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta  Right, a still from Jannat's latest video piece 'I want to know'

Left, Jannat's pieces for the BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta

Right, a still from Jannat's latest video piece 'I want to know'

"I remember just taking a look around the exhibition and thinking how surreal it was. I've never had my art shown publicly before besides in the context of college or university, so there was definitely a moment of being overwhelmed with joy. Actually several moments. Specifically in a space where similar experiences where explored in so may different and beautiful ways. I felt a strong sense of reassurance that the viewers could really resonate with the space, art and poetry. which meant that people could potentially take something from my paintings too. The turn out to the opening was so amazing at one point it really hit me that all these people are going to see our work. The self-actualisation that came from that is something I though I'd have much later as an artist."

"After the exhibition ended, I felt more comfortable to call myself an artist, as strange as that is to say. I felt that I had more confidence to continue using aspects of my culture in my own art and not worry about how it will be seen/interpreted. I felt happy that I've gotten to know like minded creative people, and felt excited to see where their work will take them. I've been making more art and currently in my second year of university studying fine art. I also worked with Burnt Roti for a Late At Tate workshop, where I showed a video piece at the Tate Modern."

Video work - https://vimeo.com/user61107795

Instagram - heebiejabi 

Kumail Rizvi

 Left, Kumail's piece for BOBBA Exhibition  Right, the cover of Kumail's comic book Kalil

Left, Kumail's piece for BOBBA Exhibition

Right, the cover of Kumail's comic book Kalil

"The BOBBA Exhibition is, I think, still the coolest thing I’ve been a part of. It was really nice to see people appreciate all the work we had done, and there was just so so so many of them. Such a great week. Literally the next week I began my Masters so I’m not sure I had much time to process it but I think I was relieved it went as well as it did, that I got the piece done and that for the most part it turned out well."

"Since then, I started my Masters at the RCA, I’m still progressing on finishing Kahlil, the comic I work on which should have it’s first volume complete this year, I actually got my first paid comics gig from the BOBBA exhibition! Which also should be out this summer, so again super cool. And I’ve finished the script for my first original graphic novel which is still a ways away (guys drawing takes a long time)."

Website - kumailr.com

Comic - Kahlil.kr

Twitter - @hikumail

Jasmin Sehra

 Left, Jasmin's pieces at the BOBBA Exhibition  Right, Jasmin speaking on a BBC Three video about colourism

Left, Jasmin's pieces at the BOBBA Exhibition

Right, Jasmin speaking on a BBC Three video about colourism

"I absolutely loved the exhibition. It was the first time I had been involved in an exhibition specifically for and with artists from the South Asian community, I truly felt at home. It was really empowering and heart warming that we all connected through our individual stories and work and shows the power art and creativity has to build and unite. Family was made. [When it ended], it was definitely a bitter sweet moment. Sad to see it end but excited for what was going to unfold next."

"So much has happened since! Including collaborations with brands and events. I began a monthly radio show, been a part of various other group exhibitions as well as a few documentaries discussing topics from grime on Huck magazine to colourism with BBC Three. I also modelled for a Nike campaign, was part of various panels including with fellow BOBBA artists at Cambridge university and also London fashion Weekend Festival! Most recently I was part of a SkinnyDip campaign which was launched on International Women's Day celebrating diversity. Currently working on a few projects which will be released in the next couple of months.

Website - www.jasminsehra.com

Instagram - jasminsehra

Shagufta Iqbal

 Left, Shagufta performing spokem word on the launch part of the BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta  Right, the Yoniverse Collective (bottom left, clockwise) Shareefa Energy, Shagufta Iqbal, Afshan D'souza-Lodhi, Amani Saeed. Photo credit: Kiran Gidda

Left, Shagufta performing spokem word on the launch part of the BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta

Right, the Yoniverse Collective (bottom left, clockwise) Shareefa Energy, Shagufta Iqbal, Afshan D'souza-Lodhi, Amani Saeed. Photo credit: Kiran Gidda

"Without sounding overly cheesy, but fucking blown away [by the exhibition]. Yes, I loved the idea of it, yes it was incredible to me, but I had not idea (because of all the reasons I hear from the mainstream about POC not engaging with art etc etc etc) that there was such a HUGE appetite for S. Asian events. What Burnt Roti did with Nikita's work was just such a game changer, it highlighted the need for safe space, for POC spaces, and the need to platform art that speaks out to more experiences than just a White experience.  The exhibition resonated with so many people, and I think the visitors too were just as surprised as we were about the level of interest, and just HOW many people like them we there to support and felt BOBBA spoke to them, and valued their experiences."

[After the exhibition ended I felt] re-energised, just buzzing, it really added fuel to my art and made me re-evaluate the way I spoke with my audience, and engaged with my audience. More importantly I really felt like I was a part of a beautiful family of like minded creatives, and not just chipping away in isolation on my art, which can get very exhausting. To this day I know I can reach out and ask for help or advice from the group, none of which could have happened without Burnt Roti and BOBBA."

"[Since], we have launched The YoniVerse Poetry Collective, the writer's group runs monthly, the next one is on the 11th April 2018 in Farringdon, you can book via the Facebook page, and Event Brite.  We are also bringing the next Golden Tongue to East London on the 26th April 2018, the last one was sold out, and the Beast from the East did not faze my South Asian goddeses who Headlined and Open Mic-ed.  This month we will have the incredible poets Suhaimah Manzoor Khan & Oshanti + Nadia from the TUTS at Feet East at 7pm."

Website - https://www.yoniversepoetrycollective.com/

Instagram - theyoniversecollective

Facebook - theyoniverse

Twitter - @_theyoniverse

Nikita Marwaha

 Left, Nikita standing by her essay that inspired the exhibition.  Right, Nikita in Berlin

Left, Nikita standing by her essay that inspired the exhibition.

Right, Nikita in Berlin

"It was surreal to see my words come to life. Standing in the exhibition gave me the same feeling I get when I see a South Asian character represented on TV or in a movie and can finally relate. It was amazing to see people nod along, laugh and even well up as they read my essay. And then, being able to chat to them about the beautiful and ugly sides of being British Asian and how we individually have overcome cultural conflicts in our lives - was so lovely. Looking around at the exhibition felt like a massive celebration of all that is British Asian. It was the first time I'd seen our unique blend of two worlds illustrated in such a tangible way and it felt so empowering to collectively own our identities and all that it comes with."

"I felt really proud. Proud of myself for putting my thoughts into words and having the courage to write 'The Beauty of Being British Asian' to begin with. Proud of all the artists that created incredible pieces and shared their stories and talent. And proud of the British Asian community that came together, and are still coming together to talk about our shared experiences and the cultures we represent. Also, I was amazed at the 2 hour long queue around the corner of the Old Truman Brewery on the opening night and the coverage we received!"

"I've since moved to Berlin and work in the tech startup scene over here. I manage content for a company creating artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Working towards a better future using tech for good is really close to my heart. I think that having a diverse workforce when creating something like AI is really important so it's great to be able to provide this perspective. I fly back to London quite a bit and plan to share lots more British Asian pieces on my blog. In particular, focusing on intercultural relationships and paving the way for modern wedding ceremonies that stay true to both the traditional and modern sides of being British Asian. Whilst planning my wedding, I didn't find an example of anything like this out there and would like to inspire other couples to rewrite tradition in a way that is meaningful for them, as well as their families. I'll be staying involved in all things South Asian representation too and would love to work on a book, join panels, projects and write more on the subject, since there are so many amazing South Asian initiatives out there to contribute to. Get in touch if you're on the lookout for creative contributions!"

Website - my blog

Twitter - @Nikita_

Shaheen Kasmani

 Left, Shaheen's pieces at BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta  Right, The Past Is Now exhibition at Birmingham Museum Art Gallery

Left, Shaheen's pieces at BOBBA Exhibition. Photo credit: Joe Fetta

Right, The Past Is Now exhibition at Birmingham Museum Art Gallery

"It was quite overwhelming, but in a positive way. I didn't know what to expect, and reflecting on it, I was too busy trying to complete the work so it was ready to go up at the exhibition. I was nervous about how it would be displayed and how people would react to it, if they'd interact (I wanted them to) and if it would make sense to at least a few people. Thankfully, I had lots of help putting it up (I wouldn't have been able to install it myself) and lots of support from BOBBA/Burnt Roti. This was important especially as I had never participated in a group show like this before, and was also being experimental with my work. However, I'm so glad that I did participate, and also that I followed my gut in regards to my work. On the opening night, and throughout the week the exhibition was open, to say I was shocked and again in a really positive way, at the turnout and the reception to the exhibition and the work. It was unbelievable and I think it had us all buzzing for a while."

"[I was] sad that it was over so soon, but also grateful that I was a part of it. It gave me a chance to reflect (and it would've been could if we could have done this together but I understand that would have been difficult to organise) It showed how much stuff like this is needed - our stories in our voices on our terms, and how important representation is. However, and as I have since learnt, representation is not liberation, and going forward, how do we continue what we started, how do we archive and record our journey, and how do we build spaces that cater for this thirst but are sustainable and lend to legacy? I think I have more questions than I did before, but thats not a bad thing. Also, a friend mentioned to me that being in Brick Lane in the East End, there wasn't a huge Bengali presence, and perhaps acknowledgement of the Bangladeshi community's fight against racism and establishing a thriving community (which is now being gentrified) would have been worthwhile, as well as a larger range of non-alcoholic drinks at the launch."

"I was involved in another exhibition by Variant Space, and attended the course on Decolonial Struggles & Liberation Theology by Uni of Johannesburg in South Africa. I also co-curated The Past is Now, an exhibition on Birmingham's relationship to empire at Birmingham Museum Art Gallery. The exhibition, and it seems like its the first of its kind, has been getting a lot of attention. This article by another co-curator about the process has been shared a lot https://mediadiversified.org/2017/11/15/the-museum-will-not-be-decolonised/ and there was also a review in The Times, but the journalist spelled my name wrong...must be because its a confusing Asian name! I'm also working on MFest, the UK's first literature festival inspired by Muslim ideas and cultures, taking place at the British Library at the end of April."

"I'm speaking at the Museum Next conference in June, the thought of which is extremely scary. But I plan to tell the delegates that decolonising musuems isnt really possible, and that decoloniality is not another word to be co-opeted for tokenistic diversity. Apart from that, hopefully some more curating (but securing funding is a *****!) and more exhibiting. I want to make more art, and tell stories, and disrupt dominant narratives. And celebrate. But mostly make more art."

Website - shaheenkasmani.com

Twitter - @SKbydesign

Instagram - shaheen.kasmani

Amani Saeed

 Left, Amani performing spoken word at the BOBBA Exhibition launch party. Photo credit: Joe Fetta  Right, Amani at Golden Tongue with the Yoniverse. Photo credit: Christy Ku

Left, Amani performing spoken word at the BOBBA Exhibition launch party. Photo credit: Joe Fetta

Right, Amani at Golden Tongue with the Yoniverse. Photo credit: Christy Ku

"It may sound odd coming from a British Asian, but I was shocked by the exhibition. More specifically, I was shocked by the public reaction to the exhibition—people were queuing up by the hundreds to see what I’ve always thought of as a niche culture. Walking around the room looking at the different works of art, I wanted to reach out and touch the paintings. For the first time, I felt as though something was geared toward me and centred around my experiences. I felt as though I was in on a secret with everyone else in the room, especially when looking at a painting which immortalised the disappointment of opening an ice cream tub and finding dhal inside."

"After the shock wore off, I was incredibly proud. How could you not be after being part of such a massive success, especially when you’ve gone your entire life cringing at your culture? It was the first step of a journey toward exploring my heritage, not in a ‘I need to know where I’m from’ kind of way, but in a ‘what about being Asian informs who I am, if anything?’ kind of way."

"I’ve started an open mic called Golden Tongue with my collective The Yoniverse. The night is aimed at amplifying the voices of South Asian women and giving them the space to safely play with and explore their identities, a space members of the collective didn’t have growing up. The next night is on April 26th at 93 Feet East—the venue is right next to where the BOBBA exhibition was! You can find more event information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/229884014415364/. [Ialso have] a book. It’s a collection of poetry called Split and will be published in June with Burning Eye books."

Twitter - @amaniexchange19

Instagram - amaniexchange19

Sabba Khan

 Left, Sabba at the BOBBA Exhibition standing next to her piece  Right, the front cover of Sabba's latest graphic novel 'Pluralism'

Left, Sabba at the BOBBA Exhibition standing next to her piece

Right, the front cover of Sabba's latest graphic novel 'Pluralism'

"Bobba introduced me to an incredible scene of like minded artists and creatives who are Asian and love being Asian! This has been incredibly explosive for me. Since my art is very personal and relies so heavily on my own personal journey, I've been 'laying the groundwork' for my wider pieces by interrogating the purpose of my work within the wider context of this newly discovered scene."

"That said, I had spoken about putting together a small compilation of my short stories, and I have done so! This small, quite intense, compilation of 5 stories, one of which is the Bobba exhibition piece, has been submitted to a publishing house to be considered for a long format graphic novel. I'm going to stay hopeful, but if that doesn't work out, then a series of self published works is definitely on the cards."

"Other than that, I'm going to be moving out of my home in the next few weeks ready to start major construction works. Holding down a full time design job whilst getting onto the property ladder, with massive help from parents, has meant that the last few years of my life trajectory have been focused on grounding myself, finding stability within myself, and hopefully creating a safe space where my storytelling can come from a place of reflection, poise, and solidity."

"I'm coming to appreciate this long, drawn out slow burner of a process, it's the exact opposite way that I've worked in the past, and that actually means a lot. So to all of you who liked my work at Bobba and are looking out for more, please stay with me, as a I slowly find the space to put it all together! Thank you!"

Website - sabbakhan.com

Twitter - @sabbakhan_

Instagram - cosmicsabba