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Artist Spotlight: Ayqa Khan

Young Pakistani-American artist Ayqa Khan creates in order to explore her identity. The native New Yorker’s digital illustrations challenge mainstream beauty standards, celebrate dark skinned South Asian women, cleverly blend Desi culture with American imagery, and have made the artist wildly popular with feminist audiences. We see amplifying young South Asian women’s voices and artistry as vital parts of our work at Sakhi for South Asian Women, and are privileged to have worked with Ayqa this year. Check out our artist interview below and donate today to help us create more platforms to showcase the incredible work being done by South Asian feminists, artists, and creators in NYC and beyond!

Sakhi: Tell us about your work and the inspiration behind it.

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Ayqa: I’m a visual artist from New York and I mostly use the mediums of digital drawing and photography, as well as some video. I’d love to try out new mediums in the future as well. For the most part, the work I’ve been doing has a lot to do with my South Asian identity, my gender, and my feminism. I think a lot about the intersections between these parts of me as well as class and colonialism. These are things that have shaped my life. I think many of the themes I’m interested in are relatable to other young South Asians.Sakhi: How have you been involved with Sakhi and what has the experience been like for you?

Ayqa: Being a featured artist at Sakhi’s “Gender Justice and the Arts” event at the Bowery Poetry Club alongside other South Asian artists and performers was so awesome. I was able to share my work and also engage with these other amazing artists who came from different backgrounds. We were all making such different work. It was an awesome experience to be able to tell my story to a large audience and be so engaged with the community of participants there. I feel so lucky that I was able to access a space like this. My voice was so validated and heard. To have that validation for my work was so valuable and encouraging. selfviaiphone_2015_ak

Sakhi: Why do you think it’s important to create spaces where South Asian youth specifically can explore topics like sexuality and feminism?

Ayqa: These spaces are necessary so that young people can be educated and safe. We need to know that we can speak up about these things and not be criticized, we won’t be invalidated. If we know more about gender justice, we can prevent harm. Having these conversations and safe spaces where we can explore these topics allows people to think critically about themselves, their environment, and who they interact with. It’s so necessary for growth, and it’s so important to know that there are reasons for the pain you feel. I’ve learned so much about identity and body image because of spaces like this. I always thought I had to look a certain way, but now I’ve learned to love myself. Having a good relationship with yourself is so necessary to being a good person and healthy community member.

sticker1_largeSakhi: Out of the many organizations that people can support this season, why do you think it’s important that people choose Sakhi, a South Asian women’s gender justice organization?

Ayqa: There’s still so much taboo surrounding domestic violence in the South Asian community. Women facing violence feel so powerless and often don’t know what to do. Creating spaces for South Asian women to combat violence and understand their struggles is so incredibly important. Sakhi is amazing because they do so much — they have so many resources, they do workshops and educate the community, they provide direct service work but also engage in awareness building. I’m so grateful to have been able to work with Sakhi, and I encourage everyone who can to #StandWithSakhi this December and help them continue in the groundbreaking work they do.