Surrey exhibit features submissions from teen girls aiming to bust the ‘Princess Myth’

Published: May 7, 2013
Pretty as a Peacock

Model Paramdeep Bhangu, 15, makeup artist Michele Miguel, 19, and photographer Joanne Wong, 17, collaborated to produce the photo Pretty as a Peacock, which is part of a new exhibit entitled The Princess Myth: Exploring South Asian Youth Identity and Wellness being presented at the Surrey Arts Centre in Surrey, B.C. Submitted photo

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Surrey’s South Asian girls no longer want to be invisible or trapped by stereotypes.

“(People) perceive South Asian girls keep to themselves, are very cultured, they shouldn’t be dressing in extreme westernized ways, they should be practising (their culture and religion),” said 17-year-old Sullivan Heights Secondary School student, Shauntal Padda. “(And) in the news you always hear South Asian girls aren’t strong women — if you look at the older generation, there’s violence or there’s a lot of controversy.”

But this is simply not the case for Surrey’s young South Asian women, so Padda, along with more than 30 other young South Asian female students from across the city, put together an art exhibit to combat this perception.

Their exhibit, The Princess Myth: Exploring South Asian Youth Identity and Wellness, is comprised of more than 60 pieces — photos, artwork and literary submissions — and officially opened at the Surrey Art Gallery Tuesday, and will be on display until August.

South Asian girls aged 14 to 19 submitted work that addresses topics like how they perceive themselves, or want to be perceived, or how others perceive them.

“The main focus was to show our strength because it’s never really heard about — that we’re strong South Asian women,” said Padda.

Padda submitted artwork along with a literary submission.

“My picture is very out of the ordinary than what I come across as,” explained Padda.

Her submission is a photo of her wearing jewels and dressed in dark colours.

“Beauty is a big thing in South Asian culture, you know, jewels and lavish clothing and colours,” she said. “(But) I’m not a person like that, (so) I’m pretty much trying to say that you shouldn’t judge a person by what they look like.”

Which, according to Padda, is a common problem in the community.

“Our human nature is to just judge by looking,” she said. “There’s a lot of negative things that we always hear, like in the news, or just a lot of stereotypes like a girl may be wearing something out of the ordinary, (so) they’re going to judge her by the way she looks.”

But it also goes the other way with the older generation, she said.

“South Asian culture in particular, it’s very traditional and there’s a lot of stereotypes like girls shouldn’t be wearing this or they shouldn’t be going out like that — they should be staying at home,” said Padda. “In our community we have to open our eyes that (young girls) are adapting to their westernized culture.”

“(But) just because I’m raised here doesn’t mean I’m going to forget (my roots)… I still want to know all that, but I want to be changing with our society.”

The Princess Myth is produced by the Arts Council of Surrey and will be on display until Aug. 12. An online presentation of the exhibit will be available at the end of June at youthvisions.ca

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

Princess Myth exhibit: Beauty is Skin Deep

Picture 1 of 4

Title: Beauty is Skin Deep Model: Vanessa Jaswal, 18 Photographer: Thomas Nelles, 18 Medium: Digital Art Institution: Emily Carr University, 1399 Johnston Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada Art Teacher: NA – Student Initiated Artwork Statement: Eloquently posed, the subject reveals a forbidden characteristic that she has harbored. Shown amongst four other depictions of female objectification in art (Top right: Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn and Annie Liebovitz’s controversial maternity photograph of Demi Moore), the prominent Eurocentric gaze is criticized. Notorious for romanticizing foreign material and depicting Euro-hybridity, Beauty is Skin Deep illustrates a genuine unraveling of culture. Instead of women being “pieces of meat,” the subject instead wears “her meat” and exercises it to her advantage. However, pulling back this cover, she exposes her true nature and the key to her martyrdom.

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