‘Being a brown woman, being queer’: B.C. illustrator uses art to express all of her identity
Jag Nagra uses his art to inspire people to live without regret.
“I find it really healing for me. To be able to express different aspects of my identity through my art,” she told Global News.
“Being a brown woman, being a strange person – all these different things can come together, and I can create something powerful.”
Self-taught illustrator who lives in Pitt Meadows with his wife and two children is passionate about ending cultural and social stigma against LGBTQ2 people, especially in south asia community.
Nagra said she struggled with telling her family about her sexuality, and introduced herself to her parents in her early 20s.
“I have an older brother and he is also gay,” she said. “So my family has found out to be very close to both of us, which I think is really frustrating for them because no one really talks to South Asian parents about what it means. there. They just weren’t educated about it so it was a shock. “
But, she says, they are open to learning and accepting their child’s truth.
“My parents relied on their friends for help, and they had a supportive community around them, which helped them understand,” she told Global News. “I’m really proud of them for standing up for us.”
Alex Sang, founder Sher Vancouverhe said he started the nonprofit in 2008 because there was almost no education or support for South Asian exotic children and their families.
“Traditions play a big role in the South Asian community. Although your faith may say, ‘Love all people, we are all equal and we support each other as human beings’, we have grown up in a culture that emphasizes (marriage of the opposite sex and have children,” said Tang.
“It was an adjustment for the family to try to understand same-sex relationships. I was not accepted by everyone in the family – it was getting smaller and smaller. It is a profound pain that we have to deal with all our lives.
“A lot of gay children are at risk of suicide, isolation and depression. I always tell parents this: ‘It may take you a long time to get to know your kids, but don’t do anything to hurt them.’ “
He said his award-winning 2021 documentary, Standingence: Out of the Shadows, which also stars Nagra, has sparked much-needed dialogue and awareness.
“It shows how far we have come and how far we still have to go,” he said.
“We made this film because there was little to no content about local Punjabi Sikh gay kids going back to their families, who you also really get to hear from. It was a pioneering tool. “
Nagra says the more she discovers about herself, the more she sees the purpose of advocacy through her creativity.
In 2006, she graduated from the Vancouver Art Institute and worked as a graphic designer for a number of years, including at a travel marketing agency.
“It was very different from what I imagined,” Nagra said. “It feels like a great job, but I think if I quit, I won’t have much experience for anything else.”
In 2012, she started teaching herself how to draw in 365 days, and things started to work out.
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“In 2019, I joined the Punjabi Market Collective, a nonprofit that is working to revive Vancouver’s historic Punjabi Market. That’s when I really got attached to my South Asian heritage, and my art started to grow from there.
“I have never painted brown skin. I never use Indian motifs. And that’s part of what I do now. There is a live line about when all are connected. “
Nagra’s projects have been celebrated throughout the Lower Mainland, including Vaisakhi- and Diwali themed jerseys for the Vancouver Canucks, Nazar Battu mask-inspired lanterns for LunarFest at the Vancouver Art Gallery, several public murals, and most recently, Love is Love Pride Stairs at Guilford Town Center in Surrey.
She said these opportunities are a way to promote her message of supporting peculiar people of color and giving them more visibility.
“I feel grateful to know that children are educated on these topics from an early age,” says Nagra.
“While society is increasingly progressive, education still has a lot to do. There is still a long way to go in the South Asian community.
“I know a lot of people who still come out to meet their families and they’re forced into an arranged marriage, or they’re ignored. But through discussion, through giving people space – that’s where you make the change.”
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The visual artist said that through the support of her network and her loved ones, she finally feels like she belongs.
“I’ve spent most of my life being unfit. I grew up in the suburb of Maple Ridge with very few South Asian families around us – a foreigner. Nagra is a weirdo in the South Asian space – again, an outsider.
“Now, I am in a space where I have to create my own sense of belonging. But it feels great to have it for the first time. And I hope.
“Hopefully this will pave the way for others to see that there is this quirky, brown-skinned Punjabi woman who has accomplished so much and it gives them inspiration to do the same.”
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