9R5A4459
000058780018
000058600020
000058780028
000058580004
000058780026
9R5A4461_2
000058600011
000058580025
000058580012
9R5A3458
000058780023
000085020002
000058780030
9R5A3718
000085020012
9R5A4651
000058570025
000068480017

Artist statement: I shot HUNGAMA two years ago for i-D magazine and it was my entry into this community. Since that night I have been working with five members of the South Asian LGBTQi+ community who frequent this bi-monthly event. Shiri; a writer, performer and poet. Zee; a model, stylist and photographer. Ruhel; drag queen and make-up artist. Anthony; performer and drag queen. Finally Ryan; cultural and fashion curator, winner of the ‘Big Flower Fight’ on Netflix and the creator of HUNGAMA. My position as a white photographer has been continuously reviewed and criticised which has helped me situate myself in this community, acquiring my boundaries, discovering an angle and when to ask questions or stay silent. By listening and learning, I wanted to grasp an awareness of everyone’s backgrounds and the multi-dimensions of what it means to be queer and South Asian in Britain, as well as comprehending the importance of negotiating spaces for such a community in a white dominated queer scene. My number one objective with this project is to shoot intimate portraits, communicating how my collaborators want to be portrayed. As these contributors continue to blossom, I have the pleasure of chronicling the growth of their careers, be it spending time with Minara and Anthony backstage before a performance, or a poetry reading with Shiri. Shooting Zee as they get ready for a shoot. Or working with Ryan as he grows a name in the media industry. Although these are not my experiences and I will never fully comprehend their realities, I see it as an obligation to use my privilege and profession to encourage acceptance and diversity in every part of British society. Everyone has taken the time to generously show me how to be a polite ally and I want to continue telling their impressive stories. To be continued… 

Artist statement: I shot HUNGAMA two years ago for i-D magazine and it was my entry into this community. Since that night I have been working with five members of the South Asian LGBTQi+ community who frequent this bi-monthly event. Shiri; a writer, performer and poet. Zee; a model, stylist and photographer. Ruhel; drag queen and make-up artist. Anthony; performer and drag queen. Finally Ryan; cultural and fashion curator, winner of the ‘Big Flower Fight’ on Netflix and the creator of HUNGAMA. My position as a white photographer has been continuously reviewed and criticised which has helped me situate myself in this community, acquiring my boundaries, discovering an angle and when to ask questions or stay silent. By listening and learning, I wanted to grasp an awareness of everyone’s backgrounds and the multi-dimensions of what it means to be queer and South Asian in Britain, as well as comprehending the importance of negotiating spaces for such a community in a white dominated queer scene. My number one objective with this project is to shoot intimate portraits, communicating how my collaborators want to be portrayed. As these contributors continue to blossom, I have the pleasure of chronicling the growth of their careers, be it spending time with Minara and Anthony backstage before a performance, or a poetry reading with Shiri. Shooting Zee as they get ready for a shoot. Or working with Ryan as he grows a name in the media industry. Although these are not my experiences and I will never fully comprehend their realities, I see it as an obligation to use my privilege and profession to encourage acceptance and diversity in every part of British society. Everyone has taken the time to generously show me how to be a polite ally and I want to continue telling their impressive stories. To be continued… 

Artist statement: I shot HUNGAMA two years ago for i-D magazine and it was my entry into this community. Since that night I have been working with five members of the South Asian LGBTQi+ community who frequent this bi-monthly event. Shiri; a writer, performer and poet. Zee; a model, stylist and photographer. Ruhel; drag queen and make-up artist. Anthony; performer and drag queen. Finally Ryan; cultural and fashion curator, winner of the ‘Big Flower Fight’ on Netflix and the creator of HUNGAMA. My position as a white photographer has been continuously reviewed and criticised which has helped me situate myself in this community, acquiring my boundaries, discovering an angle and when to ask questions or stay silent. By listening and learning, I wanted to grasp an awareness of everyone’s backgrounds and the multi-dimensions of what it means to be queer and South Asian in Britain, as well as comprehending the importance of negotiating spaces for such a community in a white dominated queer scene. My number one objective with this project is to shoot intimate portraits, communicating how my collaborators want to be portrayed. As these contributors continue to blossom, I have the pleasure of chronicling the growth of their careers, be it spending time with Minara and Anthony backstage before a performance, or a poetry reading with Shiri. Shooting Zee as they get ready for a shoot. Or working with Ryan as he grows a name in the media industry. Although these are not my experiences and I will never fully comprehend their realities, I see it as an obligation to use my privilege and profession to encourage acceptance and diversity in every part of British society. Everyone has taken the time to generously show me how to be a polite ally and I want to continue telling their impressive stories. To be continued… 

Artist statement: I shot HUNGAMA two years ago for i-D magazine and it was my entry into this community. Since that night I have been working with five members of the South Asian LGBTQi+ community who frequent this bi-monthly event. Shiri; a writer, performer and poet. Zee; a model, stylist and photographer. Ruhel; drag queen and make-up artist. Anthony; performer and drag queen. Finally Ryan; cultural and fashion curator, winner of the ‘Big Flower Fight’ on Netflix and the creator of HUNGAMA. My position as a white photographer has been continuously reviewed and criticised which has helped me situate myself in this community, acquiring my boundaries, discovering an angle and when to ask questions or stay silent. By listening and learning, I wanted to grasp an awareness of everyone’s backgrounds and the multi-dimensions of what it means to be queer and South Asian in Britain, as well as comprehending the importance of negotiating spaces for such a community in a white dominated queer scene. My number one objective with this project is to shoot intimate portraits, communicating how my collaborators want to be portrayed. As these contributors continue to blossom, I have the pleasure of chronicling the growth of their careers, be it spending time with Minara and Anthony backstage before a performance, or a poetry reading with Shiri. Shooting Zee as they get ready for a shoot. Or working with Ryan as he grows a name in the media industry. Although these are not my experiences and I will never fully comprehend their realities, I see it as an obligation to use my privilege and profession to encourage acceptance and diversity in every part of British society. Everyone has taken the time to generously show me how to be a polite ally and I want to continue telling their impressive stories. To be continued… 

INTRODUCTION FROM SHIRI SHAH

Alongside growing safe nightclub spaces in East London, once a month the chaos of HUNGAMA reigns over an eclectic crowd of acceptance and beauty. A South Asian queer club night was borne from a passion for Bollywood music, gender-bending, and free love. A site of celebrating shared journeys and differences particularly amongst the South Asian diaspora, where folks can live out their true identity in performance and drag. HUNGAMA channels the defiance of this generation to reject the confines of familial and societal expectations of marriage, 9-5 work, and heteronormative religious pressures. The closet has become too crowded and dark; freedom of movement and self-expression is a necessity to survive the dreariness of corporate London. Having all come from places where there is inherent anxiety with being in or out of the closet, where everything about identity is contingent on the approval of others, there has been a lot of internalised shame to dance off together. The quirky and tender dynamics of support, adoration, and the encouragement to unlearn shame by causing a bright scene of fabulosity.  @shirishah

 

MS. LANJI (RYAN LANJI)

"HUNGAMA’S genesis was when I was in Dalston and going out quite a bit and I realized that I was missing music from my childhood. I grew up listening to Bollywood music with my mom and I really enjoyed it, and I realized that I didn’t really see a lot of representation for Queer Asians around. I felt like it was time to get involved. I didn’t realize that it would open a door and a dialogue between Queer Asians around the UK who felt like they needed a voice and a place where they could feel safe and also integrate into the East London nightlife.

“Being Queer and Asian is a really difficult place to identify yourself. When you grow up being Asian, you’re given so many boundaries and expectations. When you realize that you’re different and you can’t necessarily live up to these expectations and you want to, you feel like you have to say goodbye and abandon them. You end up exiling yourself and traveling to different parts of the world or just leaving your family to be a part of the queer community. And sometimes you realize that there isn’t space for you there. HUNGAMA is allowing an integration point where you can be Asian and celebrate your culture, but also still be a part of the LGBT community and help that grow as well.

When we stop seeing POC people as a trend, and more as a permanent role and permanent aesthetic, sound, voice in our community, we’ll see these talented individuals become a bigger part of the way we see our fashion and culture.” - @ryanlanji

SHIRI SHAH

“Being homeless was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As a second generation migrant, the concept of home for me is really murky. I’m realising whilst I’m honoring my South Asian identity and my heritage that I am my home. My body is my home. As a queer person, our body has been so policed that for a long time I disassociated from everything. I felt so detached. It made me realise that the idea of propriety and owning a house or land is an inherently colonial concept. We don’t truly own anything other than ourselves, fundamentally.

“The disassociation from my body was exacerbated by never being taught to communicate. I was taught, ‘Okay you’re a woman, men are very bad and scary, and they will kill you, but you need to do whatever they say, because that’s a God given law. Now you need to go marry one and have his babies.’ Orgasms? Not for you.

I needed medication, I needed exercise, I needed to be on top of my eating, I needed to build some routine in my life. Because as a queer creative, routine isn’t really a thing that I know well. Me and her aren’t on speaking terms. And from doing most things for myself, I began writing. I discovered a new found independence, creating new worlds and voices. I found myself in a space where I was allowed to be angry, I was allowed to be sad. I would like to build within the community, for the community, and by extension, teach the world, and radically normalise our existence through creativity.

“It’s so ironic that people put us into a box and yet if you talk to us individually, our takes are so original and so insightful. I just find it really funny that the word ‘Paki’, is thrown around. If you actually sat us down and treated us like humans, there’s so much difference. It’s the same thing with being South Asian. India has over 200 languages and I don’t even know how many religions, and that’s the one country everyone seems to think we all come from. And we don’t. I think it’s so important to keep reinforcing that. That is not what South Asian identity is. That is not what migration is. That is not what the diaspora is.”-  @shirishah_ 

ANTHONY PIUS (BOLLY-ILLUSION)

“I’m an Alternative Drag Queen and I’m proud of my beard. My drag is all about me being a proud British Asian – infusing my Eastern and Western influences together. I enjoy Bollywood and Indian songs when I perform and equally love songs from British and American artists. What’s amazing is that the ‘white spaces’ such as The RVT and Glory really enjoy the beauty of what Bollywood and South Asians create, and the audience members thank me for allowing me to show such richness and a piece of me.”


 “My drag and my aesthetic is really combining the male and female energy together. That’s why I didn’t get rid of my beard. I don’t really go full drag beat. Cause I still really wanna keep my true, authentic self. Ohh, I forgot to mention – I am THAT dancing queen who twirls fiercely in a 6-inch stiletto.” – @antonss123

ZEE (ZORAWAR WARAICH)

“I didn’t get to explore my identity in the way that I’m able to now until I was able to connect to other queer people, who inspire me to be increasingly unafraid and proud. Just knowing that you aren’t alone makes it all real and beautiful, rather than something  that you’re going to have to fight the whole world on, alone, just to exist.

"I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from old-school  Bollywood actresses, that’s why I’m wearing this curl. For me, this was my way of expressing my femininity. People would just see it and be like, Oh, I love your Superman curl. I’d be like, it’s not a Superman curl. Clark Kent could never, trust me. I actually borrow a lot of stuff from  my mom’s closet. If I could afford my own, I’d wear them every day. But instead I just wear them when I’m out, under a trench coat – to avoid any hate crimes.

“It doesn’t matter how I’m dancing, it doesn’t matter if I look a little crazy or if I don’t look polished. I might even slip, break a heel. But that’s what should be celebrated. That messiness and that reality of not being a pop star, just being somebody who’s really proud of who they are, someone who refuses to be hidden away, rather than just going for it. We are blessed and love to celebrate and be in these scenes and nightlife where we party and we’re very proud. When the sun comes back up, a lot of us are still unsafe. We’re still targets. You have to take that makeup off, take the outfits off and survive in our day-to-day life.

One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had at HUNGAMA was probably one of the first or second times I was hosting. I was up there dancing, just doing my thing, wearing this super embellished top – a wedding blouse that I took from my mom, with all her artificial jewelry on.  I went outside to take a break in the smoking area and someone who is probably twice my age, South Asian and queer, came up to me. They appeared to be quite emotional and said that seeing someone my age be so unapologetic and visible and just celebrating my queerness made them feel really, really good and gave them hope. They thought it was very inspiring. I had to tell them that their bravery has had a part in birthing mine.

“If we can stop existing within the binaries that are forced fed to a lot of the world by colonizers, then we can start to really just free ourselves. I think we all need to understand that our bodies are not permanent, the only thing that could be permanent is who we are in a more spiritual sense, and I don’t think gender has much to do with that.” –  @zeesw

RUHEL ULLAH (MINARA ÈL WATERS)

“So Minara’s main influences are courtesan songs. I was always inspired by [Bollywood] examples like Rekha, Madhuri Dixit, Ashwariya Rai. Whenever they play a mistress of the house, they own it all and they perform to the part and it’s really beautiful.”

My dream as a little kid was always just to dance on some big stages and pretend I was a celebrity. Not for the fame of it,  just [for] the level of peace and happiness [I feel] when I’m dancing on my own. That’s the one thing that I’ve always done ever since I was eight years old, even in the little corners of the house where no one could properly see me. I had a little single bedroom with my brother and a double bed, and while he was playing Playstation in that corner, I’d dance in the background and keep my headphones in and if he turned around I’d stop. I knew what drag was. Literally just me playing a character in my room because I could be a popstar for a minute or I could be doing the V&A or anywhere I wanted to perform. Or [I could] be a hoe, because I pretended that I had a lot of celebrity boyfriends as well.

Trust me Minara was everywhere. It didn’t need to be real, I still got to experience the fun and excitement of it.”

Drag makeup is really heavy beauty makeup. It’s just you can choose to be a bit more crazy with the artistic side of it. I still identify myself as a man and I still want to portray a good looking man when I’m out of drag and I don’t think I can achieve that by drawing on my eyebrows. The minute the face is on the hairs on and everything, my natural attitude just goes up.

When I was 14 or 15, I knew I was going to have to run away because there was no way for me to actually be happy in the house. I [knew I would] have to sacrifice my family to be out. I knew that I had to go to university regardless of what I wanted to study. I just needed to figure out how to get out and be able to sustain myself.

Every Bengali Asian kid that was Muslim had an Arabic teacher. Most of them would beat you with a stick. Once I mouthed off to my Arabic teacher, when I was five years old, [and] my dad put my head in a bath of water. There was some dark abuse. Yeah, I’ve got some dark stories.”

I grew up with my mother always telling me once she’s gone, ‘whose mum is going to feed you.’ I never learnt to cook and really take care of myself, that was my mum’s job. Now I no longer have that, I have less care for my diet and wellbeing. However spliffs I can roll and so I do it as a meal replacement, it’s not good but helps me forget. Sometimes I feel guilty when I eat and there’s no rational understanding, I just do. But with smoking all of that’s gone for me. I know it’s a problem but it’s the biggest support I feel I had since leaving.”

My dark thoughts come to me. I know that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I’ve just managed to handle it more because I’ve got a great level of support around me. I don’t want them to ever think that it was done in vain. I want to show them that I can actually achieve something no matter how dark the days get.” – @minaraelwaters