It all started when countries were closing their borders due to the corona pandemic; when they were endorsing their ‘nationality’ campaign; when people were closing their doors to those in need. That is when drag emerged to blur the physical boundaries of the world and bring people together.
With its diverse art practices, strong voices, and unique cultures, drag is one of the most celebrated art forms across the world. But, over time, the way people look at drag predominantly became associated with people of a certain identity. Brown drag artists have always been kept on the edge when compared to opportunities and spaces for the artists. This is due to cultural and social diaspora within these countries.
A recent article published by a leading micro reading site listed around 100 drag performers one must follow, out of which not even a single drag artist was South Asian. Does that mean South Asian drag artists lack the required skill-set? No! It’s just the diaspora that keeps them away from such compilation lists. In order to call out this stigma and discrimination against South Asian Drag artists, Asifa Lahore, UK’s first out Muslim drag artist, came up with an idea to galvanise South Asian drag performers. Together, they created a huge collage video to strike an idea of diversity in the South Asian drag scene.
Soon, messages started pouring in from across the world; Canada, India, the USA and Philippines, and over a dozen artists came together to collaborate. The idea was to include more than 30 drag performers from vivid styles including Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Androgynous Queens, Androgynous Kings, Non-binary Drag, Tranimal Drag and Cultural drag.
Eminent drag performers across the globe, including Humzer, Bijuriya, Laila Gulabi, Minara el waters, Karma Sutra, Masala Sapphire, Rotiboi, Sachit, Seemaa Butt, Kamani Sutra, Bon Abhijeet, Jawan Chokra, That Caribbeangirl 25, Currytingz, Lucky Roy Singh, Prophet drag, Chutney Chataranga, Cratolathequeen and Legendary NB were a part of this collaboration video.
Indian drag performers were also a part of this wonderful campaign, including celebrated Drag Queen Miss Bhenji aka Nilay Joshi, Drag Barbie Tyrandrama, Madamoiselle, Tranimal Drag performer Patruni Sastry aka S.A.S, and Bio Queen Samyukta Bharadwaj aka Neon were the ones who represented India.
Responding to the collaboration, Asifa Lahore said, “Unfortunately, this is a trend prevalent in mainstream drag and LGBT+ communities, be the virtual social media platforms, or in physical spaces such as bars, clubs and Prides where a few or no South Asian drag performers’ talents are featured. This is a harsh reality facing those from a South Asian background wanting to follow a career in Drag. To suggest that queens from a South Asian background don’t exist internationally is to be a perpetrator of erasure.”
Considering how drag is represented in the West, and even in India, the art form is seen through the lens of westernisation. Though Indian drag performers constantly thrive to bring in regional flavours to their drag, they are always seen from the lens of Ru Queens, questioning their ethical style through a prism of class. Though India has been making steep progress in creating more and more drag spaces in multiple cities including Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore, the country still lacks acceptance to empower Indian drag styles.
“The idea was to showcase how diverse drag is and bring out the uniqueness of South Asian drag performers and their originality towards the approach of drag. We compiled around 27 artists across the globe to put up a message that South Asian Drag exists,” said Karma Sutra, a wonderful drag artist who coordinated in collaborating the videos.
The video has released across all major social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, and is making rounds on the internet. This video indeed spreads the message of international ‘drag-hood’, and makes a strong statement that art can indeed bring people together, again and again.