Last week, 5X Festival unveiled a dreamy collaboration between Vancity Bhangra and Imagine Van Gogh--an immersive exhibition featuring the work of Vincent Van Gogh at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This crossover was set on the backdrop of the French countryside through Van Gogh’s art, combining a pitch perfect Bhangra performance that draws parallels to Punjab.

This project incorporates the work of many talented, local creatives including Sahil Mroke, a creative director whose work spans across genres, from music (where he feels most at home), to tech, film and most recently, in the culture space with 5X. 

In an interview with 5X Press, this multifaceted creative shared what it was like bringing this project to life, his undying love for collaboration in any creative project, and advice for young people itching to pursue visual design. 

For Mroke, being a creative director is like sailing a ship. 

“Everyone’s got a different role to make sure the ship stays intact, to ensure the ship’s visuals are consistent, to make sure that it doesn’t fall apart… At the end of the day you’re handling a lot of pieces of a puzzle.”

But what does a creative director actually do?

In a tangible sense, the creative director of a project makes creative decisions so that anything a brand or company releases is consistent across the board. This means liaising between a lot of people, including photographers, videographers, designers and many more. 

As for how Mroke sails his ship, his million dollar word is collaboration.

“My perspective comes from really just giving people the space to create as opposed to this whole grandiose thing. I like to bring people into a space where they can voice their opinions and feel comfortable doing it.” 

This form of collaboration is like a long term investment in community, which can allow for creativity and compensation to flourish overtime.  

“It’s such a privilege to have so many amazing people in your network, and even more so to be able to give them an opportunity and be able to reap the benefits of it. Because in the end the piece benefits from everyone’s energy,” he beamed. 

More recently, Mroke joined the 5X team to work on the upcoming 5X Festival, and was subsequently brought on for a celebration of Punjabi culture through the Van Gogh collaboration. 

The idea came to project the fields that [Van Gogh] painted in France, because they reflected a lot of the fields of Punjab. Tying that to Bhangra and bringing that energy into such a beautiful space, it’s very grandiose.” 

In terms of the direction on the day of the shoot, Mroke explained how refreshing it was to have full freedom in executing the vision for this project, in addition to the unique energy when working with other talented local creatives. 

“I really enjoy it, and being able to have so much trust in everyone who’s in the process. I feel like there was so much energy put into it,” he said.

“For example, Skinny Local did the track — that’s a pal. These are a lot of different friends and entities that I’ve wanted to work with,” he added.

In fact, the creative power on a project like this was so strong that it didn’t take long for things to click at the shoot. He said with so much creative power driving the team, getting the perfect shot would sometimes only need two takes.

For Mroke, who is newer to creative direction in the culture space, this project was a unique experience. 

Previously, Mroke said he had rarely seen the intersections between his creative work and his culture. Working on creative projects that incorporate different aspects of his culture has shown him how his work and his culture are intertwined. 

“I think it’s fusing the part of me that’s always been there. I don’t have to be me as Sahil and also as Sahil the brown guy. I can just be myself,” he said.

“This part of my world is not separate from the design world, it's all this giant space. I understand all these worlds at the same time and it formulates the orbit that I have for myself.”

Sahil Mroke’s journey to this point was not linear. He describes one of his earliest sparks of creativity as his experience on his highschool yearbook club. 

Mroke took the leap of faith to go to Emily Carr for school and do freelance work (lots of which was pro-bono) to build experience and community. Eventually, things started to click. 

To young brown kids who want to explore a career in visual communication, Mroke said it’s about laying a brick everyday. He explained that even five to ten minutes of shooting on your phone can push you towards being a better photographer. 

Mroke methodically explains the process of gaining creative skills through trial and error. He emphasizes the importance of trying new things and interacting with creative projects that resonate. 

“Use whatever’s in your environment to get better every single day, because everything else will fall into place.”

Then before you know it, you’ll be sailing your very own ship too. 


Jeevan is a UBC Sociology student, writer and self-proclaimed cinephile (to annoy the film majors). An aspiring journalist, she loves writing silly little articles about pop-culture, media, politics and the South Asian experience while balancing her job in community-engaged learning. When she isn't having an existential crisis, you can find her over-caffeinating, binging a new show or trying to prove that she's a much cooler, brown Rory Gilmore

About the author

Jeevan Sangha

Jeevan is a writer, producer and the editor-in-chief of 5XPress. She loves writing about pop-culture, media, politics and everything about the South Asian diaspora. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Sociology and has previously worked in community engagement and mental health. When she isn’t writing, you can find her over-caffeinating, binging a new show or sharing her thoughts on Twitter @jeevanksangha

Instagram: @jeevanksangha 

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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.