As 2021 draws to a close, I reflect back on the past 12 months with gratitude and thanks to all my friends, family and peers who have supported me throughout this very strange time. Thanks for the love, kindness and laughter - you know who you are.
For me, 2021 was a year of introspection, of slowing down and asking myself some important questions about the direction of my work. It also presented some amazing and unexpected opportunities and a whole lot of learning and change. Here are a few of my musings and highlights.
The year kicked off with launching We Found Love In The 80s podcast (commissioned by Future Arts Centres for Here and Now 2020) at the Wolverhampton Literature Festival in February 2021. Timing was perfect as it coincided with 'Its A Sin' Channel 4 TV series by Russell T Davies. We Found Love In The 80s celebrates the diversity of Britain through love stories of couples who found love in the 1980s and and two of the love stories we feature are about gay / queer lives and relationships with the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic. The podcast proved to be a hit, especially with The Guardian who selected the podcast as their top pick for 2021.
As part of the festival, I curated two special events for my Invisible Voices Series where I shine a light on subjects or issues that affect everyday lives. We screened We Found Love In The 80s and I hosted a special Q&A with Martyn Ware (Founder of the 80s bands Human League and Heaven17) along with two queer/gay couples who shared their experiences of hidden love in the decade of big hair and shoulder pads! It was absolutely fascinating listening to Ian Bodenham and Ian Johns talking about finding love in a London nightclub while Helen Juffs and Deirdre Figueiredo talk about their first kiss as work colleagues at Nottingham Castle.
I also spoke with TV and stage actor, writer Shobna Gulati who shared her journey of writing her debut book 'Remember Me: Discovering my mother as she lost her memory'.
Shobna wrote her book during the first lockdown, during her recovering after contracting COVID19. As a fellow artist and budding writer, I am very proud of her for writing this book. It's brave, bold, honest and really shines a light on the prejudices between the South Asian and Black community. We had a great and honest conversation (all online due to lockdown restrictions) about the often emotional strain and physical challenges of caring for a parent with dementia. We also talked about the lack of useful support and provision for unpaid carers in the UK.
In May 2021 I was invited as a special guest to speak at an opening and private event for AI: More Than Human exhibition, in partnership with Barbican Centre and Liverpool Museums. AI: More than Human invited audiences to explore our relationship with artificial intelligence.
Those of you who follow my work will know I have worked extensively with South Asian elders and marginalised communities to enrich their lives by participating in artistic projects. On this occasion, I was invited to share my thoughts on the benefits and dangers of isolated South Asian elders - first generation immigrants where English is not their first language.
This major exhibition explored creative and scientific developments in AI, demonstrating its potential to revolutionise our lives. Bringing together artists, scientists and researchers, this interactive show offers an unprecedented survey of AI with which you are invited to engage head-on. Including cutting-edge research projects by DeepMind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Neri Oxman; and interact directly with exhibits and installations from artists including Mario Klingemann, Massive Attack, Es Devlin and teamLab to experience the possibilities first-hand.
In August I ventured over to Manchester Old Trafford where I was asked to share some thoughts as a previous winner of the Asian Media Awards but more than that, to say a few words about my friend and colleague Umbreen Ali.
Jambo Cinema continued to impress at international festivals, being selected for British Shorts in Berlin, International Edinburgh Film Festival and Dinard Festival of British Films 2021. Who would have thought, the story about an Indian girl growing up inside a 1980s video rental shop would travel so far and be so brilliantly and warmly received by audiences.
We screened Asian Women & Cars : Road to Independence at Barbican Centre's produced festival Leytonstone Loves Film festival with inter-generational panelists; Dr Geeta Ludhra, BBC Presenter Monika Plaha with her grandmother 88 year old Bimla Devi. Arifa Naseem joined us with her mother, Fozia Nasim. We had such a fun, lively conversation about driving and personal independence and the importance of education as women.
I was also invited back to the Arts Marketing Association to give a Keynote speach on change, with particular focus as an artist and how I have navigated change during the pandemic. It was an honour to be invited back by the team and also be speaking about changes since I last presented at the national conference in 2019.
And alongside all of this amazing work stuff, I began renovating my home which has been an absolute delight and headache at times! Did you do any decorating at all? If so, send me your before and after photos, I'd love to see them. I actually have paint in my nails as I type this blog as I am contenting to paint during the holidays.
This year, I took a step back from social media and decided to live more in the real world. Interestingly, I re-connected with old friends and met some great new people but most of all, I enjoyed not spreading myself so thinly and taking time out for the important things in life, including getting back to nature.
Is it me, or has time gone really fast over the past two years? Zoom was pretty strange in the beginning but I think we are all fairly accustomed now and then BOOM. In Autumn 2021 the Metaverse arrived! I have to tell you, I don't fully understand it but I intend to embrace it, seems like a lot of young people already have.
“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future” -John F. Kennedy
As an artist I am excited about the future and the new opportunities that technology can bring and I think can further devolve power of establishments back to the artists and their fans. I feel hopeful and optimistic as I enter 2022.
Whoever is reading this, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy 2022. See you on the other side, in real life or in the Metaverse.