FEATURE: Artist, Vivek Shraya


Toronto is known for its good looking people! We have an abundance of hot queer people of colour here in the T-dot. However few stand out like the lovely Vivek Shraya. His pretty face, smooth voice and effortless style make even the gayest of lesbians woo. Myself included. But Vivek is talented beyond his looks. This triple threat has released five records, just published his first book of short stories and plays with video art. He’s heading to India to promote his book God Loves Hair and tour with Tegan and Sara. And I think you should check him out.

Seeking Single White Male is an artistic documentation of Vivek’s exploration into the white aesthetic of gay bars, during his coming out process. He says, “it felt important to create something that spoke honestly about this experience. How racialized bodies are engaged with and exist, particularly in queer spaces.” Most of us can relate to the experience of being other in mainstream spaces which are dominated by queer expressions of whiteness. This short video quite simply draws attention to Vivek’s struggle and transformation.

Vivek describes his artistic practice as a “desire to marry art to activism by speaking about, and therefore giving visibility to, the intersections of race, religion, gender and sexuality,” rooted in the idea that art is a place to work through challenges and express ideas and desire.

God Loves Hair is a collection of twenty short stories with illustrations by Juliana Neufeld which capture coming of age moments as a queer South Asian male. Religion, travels to India, family dynamics, queerness, gender, body image and race are all explored through an honest voice which lacks the kind of self-consciousness developed during teen years. The collection invoked some of the shame, pain and loneliness I felt during high school and university as an immigrant still uncomfortable in her sexuality. Reading the collection brought back memories of feeling odd and different, moments I was too embarrassed to articulate even to myself. But it also made me smile, and explore my experiences of growing up with more compassion for myself.

“When my mom tires of me constantly borrowing hers, we head down to Zellers where she buys my first pair of tweezers. She splurges on the fancy gold-plated ones. She hands them to me in the parking lot. Thanks Mom. This passing of the torch has to be a sign. A sign that she knows my secret and loves me just the same.” – excerpt from EYEBROWS in God Loves Hair

The collection is like an It Gets Better video which actually works. It warms the heart and inspires hope without glossing over the difficulties faced by queer youth of colour. Without being complicated, contrived or over stated these stories articulate moments many of us can relate to which caused confusion about being brown, queer, gendered, unsure of how we fit into our bodies’ and how we relate to others’ during a time when being cool or fitting in are unfortunately central to the development of our self esteem.

When God Loves Hair was published Vivek knew he wanted to take it to India. Things fell into place when he got talking with Tegan Quinn about touring with Tegan and Sara.

Past visits to India were about searching for something he didn’t have in Canada, but for Vivek this trip will be about “experiencing India now - as someone who is older, happier, and still searching but not for the same things.”

This November check out Vivek in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore:

21 November 2010 | Mumbai, India
God Loves Hair reading | Gay Bombay event
The Hub | 6 pm

23 November 2010 | Mumbai, India
Direct support for Tegan and Sara
Hard Rock Cafe | 8 pm

24 November 2010 New Delhi, India
God Loves Hair reading
School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (Room #16 - Ground floor) 6:00 pm.

25 November 2010 | Delhi, India
Direct support for Tegan and Sara
Hard Rock Cafe | 8:30 pm

27 November 2010 | Bangalore, India
God Loves Hair Reading | Bengaluru Pride
Venue TBA | 2 pm

And if you want to get your devotion on, listen to Bhajans for Mom my favourite bit on his site!

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