Curated and hosted by Nyla Ahmad, who researches South Asian identity in comics, and in partnership with Collect:if (Glasgow Women’s Library’s women of colour collective) this selection of short films from two British-South Asian filmmakers explored race, identity, and sexuality in visually exciting, and thematically interesting ways. The event began with activist and director Pratibha Parmar’s 1990 film Bhangra Jig which follows a young Asian woman as she walks through the streets of Glasgow looking up at buildings and wandering through the opulent city chambers, all of which built with colonial wealth and celebrated as symbols of colonial success. However, as Parmar overlays the grand facades with clips of music and dancing, of resistance and joy, we are encouraged to think that that perhaps someday this will change and that cracks will emerge in our uncritical view of colonialism and its impact. Themes of resistance and colonialism are explored further in Parmar’s film Khush which examined the experience of South Asian queers. Using interview footage from South Asian lesbians and gay men in India, Britain and North America, Parmar was able to examine how geographical location impacted on lived experiences and also how important it is to share these experiences and knowledge to break down cultural and social barriers, as well as in challenging discrimination.
Although an emerging artist and film maker, Seema Mattu’s digital media works, Gay Superhero, Electric Toothbrush and Seema Weds Seema were no less ambitious. Seema’s captivating, and often unsettling, films questioned and explored the ethnic self by using superimposed images, audio clips, music and repetition to reflect on the complexity of an identity most often defined by its minority status, and how this status can hide multiple minoritisations within itself. This was most evident in Seema Weds Seema where she uses numerous depictions of herself to portray a wedding ceremony and explore the tension between many different forms of minoritisation including gender and queerness, as well as race and tradition. After the films Nyla hosted a short discussion with Seema about her work, giving the audience further opportunity to think about themes of identity and gender in the work, as well as an interesting exploration of the artistic self and practice.
In placing the work of an established director alongside an emerging one, Nyla and Collect:if have allowed audiences to both be introduced to a new talent while also shining new light on a recognised one. Here’s to more events which broaden the debate and challenge previous perceptions.
If you are interested in joining Glasgow Women’s Library’s Collect:if collective, there is more information here.