This week, the Indian-Canadian artists HateCopy and Babbu the Painter, grace London’s Southbank with their ground-breaking exhibition ‘LOVE SHOVE’. The exhibition is a journey through the various aspects of a Desi wedding and a comic reflection of what happens when a girl decides she is ready to marry. As the pair have described:
the name “LOVE SHOVE” refers to a popular figure of speech in Desi culture, which dismisses the idea of love, because in a wedding where everything from your outfit to your husband is predetermined by everyone who is not you, what’s love got to do with it?
HateCopy, also known as Maria Qamar, has described the work as:
an exposé of different parts of a Desi wedding and how it feels like a big celebration of love and new life, but really when you think about it, there’s a lot of characters and scenarios in the Desi wedding that aren’t really happy. For example, our main pieces are a family, it’s Mummyji, Pappaji, the dolhaa and dolhman* and everybody’s crying. In a Desi wedding, everybody cries, nobody’s really happy. That’s something that’s really funny because there could be different reasons why they're crying, maybe the bride doesn't want to get married to the guy, maybe the guy’s just not ready to settle down yet but they're young and the parents’ agreed so that’s what’s happening.
Following in the success of the pair’s first exhibit, Shame Shame, Binti, a charity whose aim is to raise awareness around the importance of menstrual hygiene in Africa and India, hosts HateCopy and Babbu the Painter’s celebration of Desi culture, LOVE SHOVE. The exhibition, which is now open at Oxo Tower Wharf, encourages us to be more open with our emotions and feelings when it comes to weddings and to look at our culture through a lens of inclusivity. For Desis, it can feel intimidating to walk into an art gallery and feel excluded, and uncomfortable in a space mostly occupied by non-Desis. Furthermore, Babbu and HateCopy have expressed the importance for the Desi community to walk into a gallery and see work that reflects your lifestyle.
The Desi pop artist HateCopy, has become an influential figure in the Indian community over the past year, through her comic and relatable depiction of the life of first generation Indians living in the west in her artwork. HateCopy, has gained a following of almost 60,000 followers on Instagram, with her identifiable phrases such as “Trust no Aunty”, “We’re not having a daughter” and “Our Beti is an artist? It’s all your fault!”, that mirror the cultural stigmas faced by women and girls of the South Asian Diaspora.
Babbu the Painter, also known as Babneet Lahkesar, combines classical features of traditional Indian art with pop art to explore the issues of gender politics within South Asian society. From her iconic “Bakwaas” series, which has featured in fashion collaborations, such as The Babbu x Kapadé Project, to her contemporary take on the “Aunty Next Door”, Babbu the Painter’s work confronts the conventional norms within South Asian communities. She cites 19th century India as her influence, as her goal has always been to bring traditional Indian art back to life in a contemporary sense and get a fine balance of the two.
The pieces reflect the experiences of women and girls in Indian culture, who are often taught to aspire to marriage above education and other accomplishments. To quote the pair:
we are told to ‘settle down’ with a rich, fair skinned doctor chosen by our mothers and our aunties.
However, for my parents' generation, arranged marriage isn't a form of oppression as much as it is the 'natural' next step after you have finished school and have a job. When my Mum, born and raised in England, married my Dad, who she barely knew, at the great old age of 21, she saw this as the norm. For an Asian girl, the predominant norm was, and still is to a certain extent, “READ, WRITE AND ROTI”.
Without knowing it, Desi girls are engrained with the goal of becoming the perfect wife, meaning each decision is dictated by whether it will be be attractive to future suitors. My Mum wasn't allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a chef, even when offered a catering apprenticeship with British Airways, because 'who would ever marry a cook'. Ironic, I know. So she started working in a bank, which was a respectable career for future suitors. However, she ultimately rebelled when she celebrated giving birth to three daughters and had the audacity to treat her son the same. The artwork showcases and breaks these cultural stigmas on female sexuality from the perspective of HateCopy and Babbu the Painter as Indian-Canadian artists.
Through their witty and innovative work, the pair have hopes to inspire:
other Desis to pick up the arts, even as a hobby, and treat it with a little more respect. We want our parents to say ‘we want you to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or artist’. We want that profession to be up there in the minds of the older generation and even us as we grow older. With the arts, there’s a lot of negative stigma.” The work allows you to experience an Indian wedding for the characters as a pose to the lights, outfits and bright colours, which are beautiful but not the only elements of the wedding. There’s also the people that are involved and “the Indian characters that are humorous and are engaging at the same time.
With sartorial artwork, unmissable merch and laddoos, LOVE SHOVE is not to be missed. Head over to South Bank and join HateCopy and Babbu for the festivities.
Where: G11, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
When: 11-14 August, 11am-6pm
*Mum, Dad, Groom and Bride