March 1, 2018

Project: ‘Begum’ by Meera Sethi

By Darshita Jain

Toronto based Indian visual artist Meera Sethi’s work has always been rooted in migration (which she spoke to TFM about in 2015 at length), identity, and hybridity. And the thread that often binds these themes together in her work is fashion and the politics of dress. She explored this extensively through her various projects like ‘Firangi Rang Birangi’, ‘Foreign Returned’, and ‘Upping the Aunty’, and has now extended the conversation to the notion of excess in Queer fashion through her recent series of mixed media paintings called ‘Begum’.

Meera Sethi (Photo by Vivek Shraya)

Talking about the project, Meera says on her website, “For queer and trans folk, a non-normative performance of gender can be dangerous, even fatal. In an ongoing conversation with my previous work that explores the cross sections of dress, hybridity, and difference, I ask: What do we gain–and what do we lose–with our sartorial decisions? How do normative (cis, hetero-patriarchal) social systems require us to perform gender in limited ways? How can we understand queerness and fashion as strategy and not a fixed identity?”


The aesthetic choices in Begum, Meera explains, have developed from an interest in maximalism and anti-chromophobia. “Color and excess can function as tactics and methods of survival. These figures liberate themselves from two-dimensional thinking. They quite literally cannot be contained by the canvas. Begum offers a vision of post-patriarchal celebration; discarding codes of conformity and hegemonic gender. ideologies in favor of play,” she adds.





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