The following blog post has been written by Mathushaa Sagthidas. Click here to view her Working Class Creatives profile.
"I began to love, embrace and be proud of who I am."
"Being a south Asian woman, more specifically a Tamil woman is a very big part of not just my identity, but my creative work and process too. Growing up, having been born and raised in London, the Tamil part of my identity is something that I distanced myself from. I was so focused, maybe even too focused on fitting in, especially once I realised that many beautiful aspects of my culture and heritage were something that people wouldn't understand. At the time it didn't take long for me to learn that these aspects, that I now love and appreciate, are something that people found 'weird' and often judged me for. Living in London, a place that of course is influenced by Eurocentric beauty standards, even the simplest things like having thick eyebrows, a 'big' nose and even two toned lips bothered me when I was younger - it became something that I wanted to change.
Fast forward a good five years, maybe even more, I have learnt a lot and understood the impact this had on my mental health. I went from being quite shy and scared to not being afraid to state my opinion. I realised that I'm wasting my time caring about opinions of people who don't have a permanent position in my life. I began to love, embrace and be proud of who I am. Reaching this point of having a slight 'I don't give a f*ck' attitude has contributed towards me reconnecting and appreciating so many aspects of my identity, especially as a Tamil/ South Asian woman. Being Tamil, especially Eelam** Tamil has become such as massive influence and a pivotal part of the work that I create. My creative process and work is how I've come to value and cherish this; my Eelam Tamil identity.
I especially learned to appreciate this over lockdown where I have spent more and more time with my mum and learnt from her first hand about her home life, childhood and experiences in Jaffna - something that I have been reflecting through self portraits, still life's and collaborating with my mother too. I know that without lockdown, this is something that might not have happened. However saying this, it doesn't mean that I didn't miss working, creating and collaborating with so many incredible, talented and amazing south Asian artists, models and mostly woman.
Through these experience, I've not only come across so many gifted and brilliant south Asian woman but I've formed so many new bonds with people who care and advocate for south Asian representation, just the way that I do. Seeing these incredible women loving and showcasing their bad b*tch selves, feeling comfortable and confident in front my camera is not only an amazing feeling for me, but its beautiful to see more and more south Asian women love not only just their identities, but their stunning ethnic features too despite Eurocentric beauty standards existing."
Mathushaa Sagthidas’s photography showcases a strong interest in fine art, contemporary fashion, and styling; skills further studying fashion promotion at Ravensbourne University London and fine art photography at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL. Mathushaa’s work is often examines her identity - Tamil Eelam ethnicity and British nationality, which is a pivotal part of her work. This complex cultural identity is often reflected through traditions, history and strongly by fashion photography. Mathushaa feels that her work surrounding Tamil culture plays an important part in embracing the history and heritage. As Tamils were once considered “an enormous strain on the system” in London during the nineties, the time of mass immigration (5:48 – 6:17, Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A, 2018). Something she finds ironic as many institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum were built and have financially grown off the backs of colonisation of the sub-Indian continent. From these few glimpses of research that has impacted her artistic growth, she begun to develop to a deeper appreciation of her parents’ background and felt luckily to learn about their history first hand. This has led to an engagement in a new process of constructing south Asian identity through that projects she creates. Mathushaa's work has been featured on Campaign Magazine, Graduate Fashion Week, Fashion Scout, FAD Charity, Anisha Parmar London, MESA Magazine, Asian Woman Festival and more. Feel free to check it out!
** referring to Eelam rather than Sri Lankan due to the eradication and genocide of Tamils during Sri Lankan civil war, which took place from 1983 to 2009 but was also the reason why my parents had to immigrate to London