Artist Swaps Western Influences For South Asian Models In Reconstruction Of Childhood Bedroom


Vancouver visual artist and muralist Sandeep Johal says she is reclaiming her adolescence by reimagining her childhood bedroom with images of South Asian models in a new exhibition at the Surrey Art Gallery.

Johal’s exhibition What if? is a freestanding recreation of the artist’s bedroom when she was growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia

It’s hot pink and, instead of influences from Western culture, is filled with photos of women she wished she had known as a teenager, such as suffragist 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 persistence in situations that we would find really oppressive,” Johal said.

Johal said she filled the space with photos of South Asian women she wished she had known as a first-generation South Asian youth growing up in Kelowna, B.C. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

“Basically it’s looking back on my formative years and wishing these remarkable women gave me the confidence to feel capable of pursuing anything.”

WATCH | Sandeep Johal describes his reimagined teenage bedroom:

British Columbia artist recreates teenage bedroom with South Asian icons

British Columbia artist Sandeep Johal recreated her teenage bedroom from the ’90s. But instead of western pop culture posters on the walls, he features South Asian models. 2:24

Johal said the bedroom was true to who she really was when she was a teenager. But, from teenage magazines to books she loved in the 1990s, the exhibit debunks traditional stereotypes of South Asian women, she said.

Posters for bands like the Spice Girls and Red Hot Chili Peppers have been overhauled.

“I created a poster-style textile and chose five South Asian women… to be the Spice Girls,” she said.

What if? is at the Surrey Art Gallery until December 11.

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