Witness A World of Hidden South Asian Narratives Within Nabigal - Nayagam Ali's Mesmerising Illustrations.
Words: Bethany Burgoyne
Illustrator Nabigal – Nayagam Haider Ali has created a world of characters which shine with childlike appeal. However, the more you explore Nabi’s work, the more you realise how many underlying themes are so crucially being brought to life. Having moved to California from Tamil Nudu in Southern India, Nabi describes himself on social media platforms as ‘He/him, 20, trans masc, Shi’a Muslim (previously Hindu)’. These snippets of information suggest it is personal experiences that feed the themes explored within the imagery.
On first glance, a series of colourful digital drawings welcomes us into the familiar world of cartoon animation. Ambitious mark making and digital brushwork infuses realism with fantastical imagery and slowly, the unique style of Nabi appears. Whether it’s a solitary portrait of an independent persona or a bounty of figures atop ethereal landscapes, each illustration depicts roles being reversed, emotions expressed and social standards subverted. The complexities of family relationships, LGBTQ identities and social standards existing within religious constructs are just a few of the themes discussed more directly in Nabi’s webcomic series Puu
‘Puu’ (meaning flower in Tamil) tells the story of two young men living as housemates in Tamil Nudu. Two years in existence, with 84 episodes to date, ‘Puu’ leads us through LGBTQ storylines with both clarity and fantasy. Religion, relationships and sexuality navigate the dialogue; it is Nadi’s careful use of words accompanying his illustrations that create moments of gentle romance, fierce anxiety and the delicacy of human thought.
Sitting upon a Southern Indian skyline, images of architecture, fashion and language are used to flesh out the subtext of the characters storylines. We see a cast of characters that seem to lead us through Nabi’s childhood streets, seemingly reminiscent of neighbours, friends and family members. Each scene is filled with subtle details, reminding us of the geographical context of Nabi’s work; heavy with references to stories so rarely shared, seen or spoken about.
What this young man appears to be doing with each mark is redrawing the rulebook, retelling the narrative and reshaping reality for those who follow in his footsteps.
All images by Nabigal - Nayagam Haider Ali
Words: Bethany Burgoyne