Bollywood Meets Hip Hop in Jasmin Sehra's Bollyhood Series.
Words: Rochelle Thomas
Jasmin Sehra is a British-Asian artist who is using art to explore her culture and dual nationality. Her latest collection, BollyHood, is a mash up of Hip Hop and Bollywood, with cultural icons being immortalized as Bollywood movie posters.
Growing up in a creative household, the pursuit of the arts was encouraged; Jasmin’s father is classically trained in Indian music, her uncles are musicians and her twin brother is a music producer. Jasmin has worked with musicians in the past producing album artwork, and says the she has taken the family talent of musicality and refocused it through visual art.
It was a resurfaced photo of her mother wearing western clothing alongside Indian traditional wear that inspired Jasmin to celebrate her mixed cultural identity, fusing both her ancestry traditions and her western influences in her work.
Your work has been showcased in group exhibitions, yet your first solo exhibition did not come until five years later – what was the reason for this?
Up until recently I was still finding an artistic voice that I was comfortable with, and it came from understanding my individual identity as well as my cultural identity. It was also about building the confidence in myself and my art, and [having] the transition into having a solo show [feel] right at that moment.
My first solo exhibition featured work that really embodied who I am as an artist (The BollyHood Series) and it all began when I started exploring my heritage, learning more about my grandparents and my parents. The solo exhibit highlighted [growth] and an important breakthrough within my craft and self, a series showing the unity of my dual heritage as a British Asian.
What is conscious art to you?
It's digging deeper than just surface level aesthetics; it's art with true meaning and feelings. It’s art that communicates at a universal level the realities of life and the truths around us.
Hip-hop has played a massive influence in your art and music in general has had a huge impact on you. What are your favourite genres to listen to?
I grew up in a household that listened to music from a magnitude of genres, and because of this I've really grown to appreciate music of all kinds. Other than Hip Hop, Bollywood music, Reggae, R&B, Neo Soul, Pop, Classical music from the motherland including Ghazals. It all depends on my mood and what the vibes of the day are!
What are you listening to at the moment?
Recently a lot of TDE artists including AbSoul and Kendrick from years back and Stalley.
You’ve spoken about how Big Pun’s “Dead in the middle… lyrics” from the song Twinz (Deep Cover ’98) made you fall in love with hip-hop; besides this line, what are your top three hip hop lyrics?
There is one artist who I really connected with in terms of lyrics and that is Kid Cudi. His music as a whole helped me though a lot, so it's kind of difficult to choose. But there [are] a couple that come to mind:
- Bahamadia - "By chance by faith, God ordered it for me no mistakes, transcend, physical elevate, time won't wait, move on faith explore"
- Absoul-"it was all a dream, I swear it never happened, I wrote like Edgar Allan, I was poe (poor) like Edgar Allan"
Ab-Soul's Control System as a whole is just amazing.
You’ve battled with depression and anxiety in the past and praise writing for improving your mental health. What other self-care tips would you give to someone who was feeling down?
[My] biggest tip is to communicate. A lot of the time I bottled up my thoughts and feelings, and that’s when I began writing. Once I had the confidence I started talking openly to my family and friends and began therapy. It was refreshing being able to release everything to people who cared in my well-being. It's important to know that you're not alone and your loved ones are there for you.
Also allow yourself to feel what you're feeling; its all about patience, faith and belief in the most high. Always make time to do the things you love and to step outside in nature whilst switching off from the world. Removing negativity, anything or anyone that makes you feel a way that isn't positive, drop it or remove yourself from the situation. When it comes to healing, put yourself first- self-love always.
Do you find that you can express yourself in words in a way that you cannot with art?
I absolutely love the visual arts but I also love writing and it's something I really enjoy. It's a method to allow you to sort through your mind, thoughts and feelings in a private space, but also a great way to reflect on your day.
My paintings do visually communicate what I'm feeling at that time of creation and it's amazing that people other than myself connect to what I create. But writing allows me to be more specific with details that I can't fully express in paint form.
What has been the biggest confidence builder for you?
It has to be pushing myself out of my comforts and facing my fears to do the things I want to do without the fear of people judging me. As Kid Cudi said, "cause in the end they'll judge me anyway so whatever". It's all about growth, doing the things that make you uncomfortable. Never compromising on my well-being and being patient with myself.
What goals would you like to achieve this year in your personal life?
This year I want to continue creating and building with other people and brands that I adore authentically and honestly. Just doing the things I love whilst pushing boundaries. I hope to be able to travel this year too, not only with my art but to allow myself time to breathe away from the norm. Radiating positivity, love and happiness in everything I do.
What can we expect from your brand this year?
Last year I began my BollyHood typography series which visually introduced what my brand Paradise Girl is about- empowerment, unity, growth and love, a universal sisterhood. Paradise Girl started off as a blog as a way to share my stories and journey. This year I want to continue expanding on the brand through art and merchandise. It's an exciting time and I can't wait to share it all!
Follow Jasmin’s work here:
Words: Rochelle Thomas