IDENTITY IS EVOLVING, shifting, and complex. Each of us has multiple layers to our identity and each of these layers can be a site of oppression or privilege. Traditional storytelling, especially when telling stories of communities and people of color, doesn’t allow for this nuance. It makes assumptions about an audience’s ability to handle complexity, it often peddles trauma, and it highlights patterns when there are none. I don’t believe that identity can be put into a singular box and the approach that I’ve taken is aligned with that. There is no holistic narrative around the South Asian American experience, and so, my approach to storytelling was to simply record lived experiences, even if what I discovered surprised or confused me. The design follows a similar path. Instead of choosing a templatized method of design, a unique visual world has been created for each interviewee.
I’m not the only storyteller here. Each person who agreed to participate in South Asian Memory Work is the storyteller of their own story. While I did do the interviewing, transcribing, and art direction, each story was finalised and approved by the storyteller, so as to ensure that the stories you’re now seeing are as each storyteller intended.
I learned to question my own lens, especially when it comes to my sites of privilege. Being a cis woman, queer, caste-privileged, and Indian, I have questioned whether it’s my place to facilitate certain stories, and moving forward, I want to share the controls with creators who more closely share the identities of the interviewees.
I also learned the importance of recording joy. As storytellers, you’re taught to highlight struggle and strife to evoke emotion. When I say that this project is an act of resisting erasure, it’s not just an act of resisting the erasure of struggle. It’s also resisting the erasure of joy, the erasure of liberation, the erasure of solidarity and love, and the erasure of the fullness of being.