Image:
himmat.co

To All of the Womxn Who Came Before Me

By:
Jagreet Dhadli & Taran K Cheema

It’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to run a music festival. I recognize my privilege everyday – and the position I currently have inspires me to do better and be better. Growing up, I was always fond of the arts as a medium of self-expression. Through the arts, I’m finding my own way – building my own ecosystem, finding my niche, and celebrating the amazing artists, arts professionals, and creatives I get to work with through this amazing platform.

I recognize the opportunity I have wasn’t always available. Reflecting on my own lineage, the womxn in my family albeit left their mark on the world through their kindness, nurturing and devotion to their family members, but I often wonder if they were satisfied with their life trajectories. I wonder what profession my Nani would have pursued had she been able to receive the same opportunities as me. Or, what kinds of school subjects my Dadi would have been into had she had the opportunity to go to school and educate herself. My biggest regret in life is not being able to share intellectual conversation with these wonderful and brilliant womxn. I’m sure I would have learned a plethora of things from their life experiences. 

I’ve never met my Nani. We’re dopplegangers. And we exhibit the same behaviours in a lot of ways. I wish I had the opportunity to get to know my Dadi. I often wonder if they’re watching me from afar. Or, if they’ve written my destiny in the stars. The blessings in my life are too incredible not to feel convinced that they’re guiding me.

International Womxn’s Day for me is a way to recognize my own ancestors. The line of incredible womxn I’ve come from. It’s also a day for me to reflect on what still needs to be done. No doubt, we’ve come a long way within a few generations. I like to think of my mother as that iron-clad bridge who paved the way for my sister and I to do what makes our lives feel meaningful. To do the work that we think is good work. To make our own marks on the world – but in different ways. I’m forever indebted to her for crossing over to unknown lands on the same day as her graduation for completing her BA in Economics. She left all she knew at the age of 18 for the future of children she hadn’t met yet. Himmat isn’t big enough of a word to describe her, and I’ve been trying to find the words and actions to thank her for 23 years. 

I like to think I am a product of hundreds of years of womxn. All of whom I carry with me in my blood and DNA. And with them, I carry their passions, their nurturing, their kindness. I am a small part of a whole collective. The legacies they created brought me where I am today.

And then there are the legacies brilliant womxn outside of my family heritage have created. One of such – Carla Chambers. My dear, incredible mentor. A powerhouse womxn who taught me to live and love fearlessly. Who believed in what I had to offer when I thought there wasn’t much there. Who has the courage to live so deeply, love so fiercely it inspires me to never back down from what I believe in. There is strength in the blessings and affection of our grandmothers, Carla. It’s crossed over many centuries and cultures to express itself in our friendship. Our meeting is proof of this.

I celebrate progress. And as much as I reflect on the past, I sit in the present and I wonder about the future. Although we’ve come a remarkably long way as a society – through various resistances, womxn’s movements, and feminist waves, I also wonder what’s left to fill the gap. Because, unfortunately, the gap still weighs heavy. 

In my own realm, I see womxn doing incredible things in the arts. Inspired by my mother’s rangoli patterns and mastery of stitching fabrics into intricate end products, and Carla’s abilities to stir my soul with her voice, I think of how womxn have turned their incredible artistic abilities into full time creative pursuits, off of which they are building their own empires. But, I wonder if we’re doing enough to support South Asian womxn in the arts achieve their dreams. Taran K Cheema, an incredible local artist and designer of her own accord, helps me fill in the gaps:

“Vancouver is a growing city. The beautiful thing to see is new artwork coming from young artists. I think the current South Asian women artists in Vancouver are amazing leaders and role models. Everyone is there for each other and supportive and proud of the work produced. It would be amazing to see these west coast south Asian women take over internationally, because they truly are talented."

[We can support South Asian womxn by] doing more events. But events done by women for women artists. Also opening the doors for all women artists, not just South Asians. It’s beautiful to see all the cultures and communities represented through the platform of art. I don’t think there are many societal or internal barriers, I just would love to see women being involved with arts!

To the womxn reading this, your ancestors are proud of you. You have come a long way. Take today to celebrate your resilience, your strength, your trauma, your healing, your wins, your losses. You warm up the world with your grace – and you leave a mark on it with your love and passion for everything you do. This is just the beginning for us, and the discourse is yet to be enriched with the colourful voices of the entire collective. And to the men. I ask you to support the womxn you love and know – we can only call it progress when we make room for everyone. 

Happy International Womxn’s Day.

xo,

J





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