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Diaspora Creative: a production house that challenges identity

By:
Tasheal Gill (@tashealgill)

“The more you take care of yourself, the more your community gets taken care of as well,” said Abubakar Khan of Diaspora Creative. 

Diaspora Creative is more than a production house: they are a community of local creatives who have dedicated themselves to challenging the status quo and epitomizing the belief that everybody carries a story within them. 

The team collectively saw a demand for people of colour and minorities to have their voices shared through film, documentary, and commercials, and committed their production house to sharing stories that have previously been ignored.

Diaspora was founded in 2016 under the belief that the artistic flavours of the East and West can unite to create a robust catalogue of art to share with the world. 

The core production and content creation team of Diaspora Creative consists of three incredibly talented people: Abubakar, Vrinder, and Gary, whose skills vary from editing to cinematography, all the way to business and marketing. 

5X Press was lucky to interview Abubakar Khan, a founding partner and producer for Diaspora, about not only how this production house came to fruition, but the importance of identity and community, which are the pillars for every project.

Having experienced many different parts of the world, Abubakar speaks on the importance of challenging your identity.

“When you’re travelling or moving around, and your identity isn’t on stable ground, it will be challenged,” he says. 

“Your identity is always shifting and evolving.”

Abubakar says that the more his identity was being challenged, the more he realized he started questioning his identity.

“When teachers would ask me about my religion, I would go and learn about it,” he says. 

“It gives you a type of confidence when you search and learn and then evolve from that knowledge”. 

This brought up a larger topic of community as a whole, and the importance of learning our collective and individual histories.

“When you’re open, people will let you into their world. There are so many different worlds out there and so many stories to tell,” he reflected on the healing value of storytelling when reminiscing about past losses and heartbreaks. 

“It was once I realized that life is very short when I started to understand that every person I meet has a story to tell."

It soon became a practice in Abubakar’s life to connect with people on an earnest level. 

“I began to meet people wherever they were at, to talk and listen.” 

He explained how connecting with people over heartfelt subjects was a healing and energizing process.

“My paintbrush is people and their stories. It became a matter of how can I bring these stories together on a canvas… A collection of stories to tell the best possible story”.  

This inspiration ultimately led to a strong pursuit in connecting with the community and venturing into the world of storytelling. 

With a prior foundation of teamwork built from a lifetime of playing basketball, Abubakar undoubtedly understood the importance of collaboration. 

He met a group of talented creatives, Vrinder, Gary, and Manvinder, and collectively agreed to make something happen for their community. Together, they decided upon visiting the place they all shared cultural roots, India. 

In the beginning of 2018, the group of local creatives journeyed to India, as this is where the Diaspora was created. 

“We found, however, that we kept focusing on 1984: the Sikh genocide, operation blue star, the partition… a lot of moments of trauma”. Abubakar reflected on concentrating too heavily on narratives that left them feeling like victims, recycled in a trauma state. 

They focused instead on highlighting the apex of history by asking themselves: “When was the last time Punjab was really at its height? When we were the controllers of our own destiny and we weren’t just surviving, we were thriving?” 

It was at this moment when they discovered Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his kingdom of interfaith. This era was the last time Punjab was fully whole, and India and Pakistan’s sides were together. 

“And so that’s when we went to India. To uncover this guy’s kingdom,” Abubakar reminisced about their momentous expedition. 

“By the end of the India trip, we decided we needed to work together and that was when Diaspora Creative was founded.”

In a brief interview with 5X Press, Luke Strahm, a cinematographer for Diaspora, talked about his experience when the team went to Punjab:

“We went about a year and a half ago and it was amazing,” he says. “Following the breadcrumbs of Ranjit Singh’s past proved to be a fantastic tour of the country and I was able to really experience the true culture of Punjab”. 

He added, “Because Abubakar has family there, it felt like we were more than tourists, and had inside access to Lahore and the other cities we visited.” 

Luke further explained how incredible the entire experience was, and the additional significance of visiting Nankana Sahib during an important year. 

Ultimately, the focus of Diaspora is hybrid identities, and the beauty of bringing the worlds of the east and west together. They have focused on telling stories about the diaspora, in the diaspora, and with an emphasis that each film must come from the heart. 

Much like his mantra to constantly challenge identity, Abubakar spoke about the importance of coming together from different walks of life. 

“That’s what makes Punjab such an interesting place. We had people coming together and crossing paths, which is what gives you a stronger sense of community, because different worlds will always challenge you.” 

Diaspora Creative truly is more than just a production house. They are a team committed to projects that have substance, speak to your soul, and use the medium of film to heal. They use films to heal intergenerational trauma and are propelling others in the community to find confidence in telling their own stories. 

Be sure to visit Diaspora Creative’s website and Instagram to find out more about their upcoming films, including their project, Lions Rise, which is now a series that follows Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom.

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Tasheal is a screenwriter and poet who believes creativity fuels true happiness. She is studying her first year of Film Production at UBC. Tasheal first discovered her passion for telling stories when she typed up old manuscripts for her dad at the ripe age of 9. Ever since, she has fell in love with the art of storytelling. Tasheal is an Aquarius who uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism and enjoys binge-watching Frasier on a regular basis. Find her on instagram at @tashealgill

5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.

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