Welsh poet, Jaffrin, shares her personal experiences of racism and colourism within the South Asian community.
South Asian communities in the West have been facing racial discrimination from white people for centuries, but even more so recently. However, there is often a disconnect between the type of racism perpetuated by white people, and that which exists within communities themselves.
Jaffrin is a Welsh, Bangladeshi, Muslim poet and multi-disciplinary artist who is more than familiar with these deep-rooted beliefs. Growing up, skin colour was a regular topic of conversation in her family and she was often encouraged to stay out of the sun because her skin would get darker, implying that it would make her less desirable.
These experiences inspired her poem, SKN, in which she explores how colourism is rooted in European colonialism and is deeply embedded into the lives of many South Asian communities.
Curated by Jukebox Collective and Directed by Artistic Director, Liara Barussi, Jaffrin’s poem has been brought to life through a poetic visual styled by local Welsh-Somali stylist Asma Elmi. The short film takes place in the National Museum Wales and draws similarities from the British royal family, questioning the parallels between them and the ideologies that families from racially minoritised backgrounds uphold in order to retain a good reputation within their community.
The poem draws from Jaffrin’s personal experiences, including a trip to India where she was faced with the unnerving reality of the country’s devotion to Queen Victoria. This narrative became even more obvious when a news article broke about Meghan Markle breaks royal protocol by crossing over her legs rather than sitting with a slant. Something which was similarly frowned upon in her own family, and inspired part of this poem, “is that what happened when we adopted their ideology”, she asks.
Jaffrin says, “I have felt alone in my skin and my soul so many times and I know that is a very relatable thing – I just want people to feel comfort in relating through my work and to understand they are not alone.
I also hope that this piece of work will encourage more discussion and action to eradicate certain traditions that are rooted in racist ideologies and to tackle subjects that are deemed taboo to talk about. I’d like to encourage other Asian and Muslim women to speak on and express their experiences as every single experience is valued.”
SKN is part of a six part series of films and performances curated by Jukebox Collective for Festival of Voice and can be viewed here.
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