Artist recreates childhood bedroom with images of female South Asian role models

·1 min read
Sandeep Johal is pictured Oct. 8 in her installation at the Surrey Art Gallery. The exhibit mimics her bedroom from her teen years, only with images and artifacts of South Asian role models.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Sandeep Johal is pictured Oct. 8 in her installation at the Surrey Art Gallery. The exhibit mimics her bedroom from her teen years, only with images and artifacts of South Asian role models. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver visual artist and muralist Sandeep Johal says she's reclaiming her teenage years by re-imagining her childhood bedroom with images of South Asian role models in a new exhibit at the Surrey Art Gallery.

Johal's exhibit What If? is a loose recreation of the artist's bedroom when she was growing up in Kelowna, B.C.

It's bright pink and, instead of influences from western culture, is filled with photos of women she wished she had known about as a teen, like suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh and India's first female taxi driver Selvi.

"I was really looking for South Asian women who really showed a lot of resilience and perseverance in situations that we would find really oppressive," Johal said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"Essentially, it's looking back at my formative years and wishing that these remarkable women could have given me the confidence to feel like I could pursue anything."

Johal said the bedroom is true to who she really was as a teen. But, from the teen-girl magazines to books she enjoyed in the 1990s, the exhibit debunks the traditional stereotypes of South Asian women, she said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Posters of bands like the Spice Girls and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been recast.

"I created a textile in the style of the poster and I chose five South Asian women ... to be the Spice Girls," she said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

What If? is at the Surrey Art Gallery until Dec. 11.

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