Born and bred in Liverpool with a South Asian upbringing, Chila Kumari Burman explores what it is like to be an Asian woman growing up in Britain and learning how to merge both cultures.
Usurp Art Gallery is a non-profit gallery in Harrow, a town with many contrasts itself with the ‘posh boys’ on the top and the Asian ‘rude’ boys down below.
Being a young British Asian woman myself seeing bright colours, bindis, paint, prints and mixed media all collide some how helps define my true identity. In a culture where taking a stride into the arts is frowned upon, Chila pursues to break the mould. At this exhibition she is breaking and addressing stereotypes with her work, looking at gender, race, sexuality and personal memories of her childhood.
After admiring her work for years and instantly connecting with the work, I had to meet this talented artist to get an insight; A studio in the middle of Hackney, up the concrete stairs and through a white corridor, the door to the studio opens and everything that could possible sparkle hits me instantaneously. I felt like I belonged, as the bubbly personality of Chila is as vibrant as the work itself. We started talking and I still couldn’t believe I was in the studio of someone I have referenced for years.
I knew about her love for fashion so I had to find out more! She told me with much enthusiasm how she used to rumble through charity and second hand shops. To her this style came naturally, making what was uncool then most fashionable now. For Chila it was the excitement of searching for fashion she loved which still remains till this day.
Chila Kumari Burman's studio in Hackney
Her love for fashion was fuelled by her father, a bespoke tailor who loved seeing all of Chila’s purchases and occasionally was drawn to run her up an outfit, she tells me, “He could make a dress out of a sari in a couple of hours.” It’s Small memories like these that have influenced Chila’s work and giving it the depth of a culture she calls her own, not just Asian or British but a fusion of both.
'Punjabi Rockers' 2005 Collection of British Council
With this natural love affair with fashion I had to ask her if she would ever go into the fashion industry, as her work would look fantastic as fashion prints. I could see it was something that fascinated her about taking that step, but she told me only if it was related to her art form whilst promoting her pieces.
Chila’s work is a reflection of her mind, heart and instinct which comes naturally. It takes you on a journey of her past,present and future, of her unique Brit-Asian culture. Her animated personality draws you into a colourful world where you are bedazzled with a collection of mixed media with pure definition of one’s identity. Meeting her and talking to her on a personal level had me captured with this exciting feeling of what I could achieve. A strong, empowering and talented woman who expresses to the world her creativity. She says,’ I’ve changed the family business, but I’ve kept to who I was. I’m my parent’s daughter. I’m a working-class-Punjabi-Scouser. And I’m proud’.
If you ever feel like taking a trip up the Met line, visit the gallery and see all Chila’s spell bounding work what will take you on a journey.
For more information please visit: www.usurp.org.uk and
By Anisha Parmar at Blow