Posted on July 24, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Crown the Brown Featured

Crown The Brown: The South African South Asian Artist – Darshini Chetty

Darshini Chetty

“My passion lies in all realms of art!”

Crown The Brown Exclusive : The South African South Asian Artist - Darshini Chetty

Crown The Brown : South African Architect Darshini Chetty finds her passion more than just architecture but illustrations as well. not only known for just any form of illustrations but specifically South Asian illustrations. She is most certainly a talented soul and has created many viral illustrations. Darshini‘s work has inspired many South Asian influencers to reach inward and find their inner RANI! Darshini has inspired many with her art. She has created trends all over the world with her amazing craft! Desi girls all over the world are showcasing their best human form of Darsh Illustrations!

Above all, Crown The Brown wanted to know the artist behind these exquisite illustrations. Here is what the amazingly talented Darshini Chetty shared with us.

You have such a natural born talent for illustration and art! What fueled your drive towards art and when did you realize that it was your passion?

Thank you so much! I think it started off with my love for fashion design. I remember staying over with my grandmother (who was a dress maker among so many things!). Being so fascinated by the way she would transform rolls of fabric into complete, items of clothing. Within a matter of hours! She would work at her sewing machine, pass me all her spare fabric pieces to draw patterns on with felt pens and wrap around my dolls to make new outfits with.

So I’d say drawing was something that started quite early and naturally progressed. I found myself doodling during class, designing friend’s sweet 16 dresses during break. Then coming home to draw after school. It wasn’t until the end of university in 2016, when I had more creative freedom and a better idea of what I wanted to learn more about. I began taking it more seriously, and developed more of a focus on storytelling, colour, style and messaging through art.

Tell us a bit more about the Darshini behind the art. What should we know about you?

Let’s start by saying I am Darshini Chetty. A 23 year old South African-South Asian creator currently based in Durban. I have my degree in Architecture although my passion lies in all realms of art- architecture, illustration, fashion and animation to name a few. Creating an impactful experience through design and art and the process of turning concept into reality is something I find super exciting and want to do for the rest of my life hopefully.

I’m still trying to figure out the space I’m most happy occupying and contributing towards at the moment. If I’m not drawing or painting I’m usually trying to find cool books to read and movies to watch and then never reading or watching any of them. I also just appreciate a good cup of coffee but hate anything coffee flavoured, and kinda obsessed with Adventure Time.

Every illustration tells a story, if you had to illustrate your own life what would it look like if you had to describe it in words?

This is a tricky one! I think it would probably look like a whole lot of random elements, absolutely zero method to any of their arrangements -some blurred together, some in the background, some sticking out a bit more, some in grey-scale, others in Technicolor, but somehow all working together? I hope…

Also, it probably wouldn’t be a complete image, always one continuous work in progress. 

How do you think people generally perceive art and how would you change their perceptions especially in a South Asian community?

Traditionally art was viewed as something you see in a gallery. To be viewed, not touched, of luxury rather than of need, pretentious and shrouded in mystery meant for a largely Western audience. So when our roots lie in communities that had to purposefully strive towards lifting themselves out of poverty and had to focus on putting food on their family’s tables day after day.

You had to be realistic and question the relevance of a R3 million painting of a nude figure and the viability of having a career as an artist.

It’s a relatively difficult question to answer because I understand why art wasn’t something prior generations placed priority on. However I can say that once we’ve started viewing art as something that can never really be universally defined. Also in a way that’s not restricting to the creator, the creation and the audience.

“We’ve begun to dismantle the link to art being exclusive, elitist and inaccessible.”

Also, the rise of social media platforms really helped with this change in perception. It granted us much more access to artistic talent than our parents grew up with.Exposed to many incredible artists. Their work from marginalized communities in the past year than I have in a lifetime.

Artists who are reclaiming their space and narratives in the creative scene. Translating it in a way that’s most authentic to themselves and their communities. To me art, at its core. About visualizing what it means to experience and exist as humans and to transcend boundaries.

It can provide a gateway to conversation and discussion regarding culture, representation, struggle and identity. So if I can translate that into my art in order to highlight topics of importance to my community and make them more visible. I’m going to try my best to help that along.

You are known for creating some exceptional South Asian illustrations. Many pertaining to social issues that we encounter in society such as colourism. What are some of the main issues you think South Asian artists face in society?

One of the biggest issues is misrepresentation and a general lack of visibility. When you’re part of a minority group, there’s always this pressure to navigate and reformulate an identity that’s truthful to you in a world that’s constantly challenging you and trying to change you.

One of my favourite journalist and writer, Noor Tagouri, recently spoke out about being tokenized as a ‘diverse’ voice and ‘activist’ just because she happens to wear a hijab rather than being highlighted for the authentic journalism work she does.

In a similar way artists of colour are ‘given’ this box constructed by others. Telling us what we’re supposed to be and the way that we are supposed to be it. Pressure to conform to preconceived notions of what a South Asian artist should represent and revolve their work around can also mean that once we step away from those ideas. Our work is no longer convenient and relevant in their narrative of us.

You use your platform to bring a lot of awareness. What are some of the issues you think needs more reflection? Why is it important to speak about these topics?

A lot of more focus on positive representation. When representation is monopolized by one group, the stories and issues of the marginalized are never told. Seem to become almost stereotypical figments.  It is so important for media, publications and companies to diversify in a meaningful and mindful way. Which can only be done if there is genuine interest in collaboration and involvement on both sides. So the more we highlight positive and true representation, the larger the platform becomes to change the conversation. Allowing us to create a completely new table.

Also, South Asian communities are notorious for their honour culture. Which is why I think we all need to speak about Intersectional feminism more. It focuses not only on racial and gender specifics, but includes a range of other interrelated forms of structural and direct oppression. By acknowledging and discussing why we need Intersectional Feminism we can begin to work on how we can make our communities more of a safer space for all.

Being a South Asian female artist, what are some of the challenges or stereotypes you have faced?

Traditionally, our community is also known for focusing on building careers based on strong academic foundations rather than embracing more creative, unconventional career paths. Which is not a bad thing. However, there is the notion that these are mutually exclusive whereas it shouldn’t be. For example, when I was leaving primary school for high school, I remember my Principal asking me what I want to pursue as a career. I responded with Fashion Design or possibly Fine Arts. To which he said I shouldn’t waste my brain on something like that.

I think another major challenge for me is being comfortable and confident in my local creative scene. Which can appear really intimidating and exclusive at times. Although people are more accepting of diversity online, on the ground it can be quite daunting and scary. And when you’re one of maybe three people of colour in a room, you’re immediately stereotyped.

How do you find the inspiration behind some of your illustrations and how do you bring those ideas to life?

I would say I have a duality of interest and style when it comes to illustration and concepts. Which I try to show between my two Instagram pages. I like being able to switch worlds depending on my mood. My second account (@papertownillustrations) is one that feels a bit more natural and nostalgic to me. The concept behind these illustrations stem from my love of reading and the magic of storytelling. My mother showed us the worlds that reading opens up from an early age- ‘Harry Potter’, ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’ and ‘The Enchanted Forest’ being some of my most favorite and memorable. All have a sense of mystery and whimsy to them, so these illustrations pay homage to that.

I started illustrating in colour in October last year as a way to explore and experiment with style and concepts. For these I shape my work around inspiration borrowed from all around me. Driven by my own interpretation of what I see or what something means to me and my community. It could be inspired by a line in a book I’ve read or from a film I’ve seen. Sometimes it would come from a mood captured by a photograph or another piece of art. Then trying to interpret that from my own perspective. Our current environmental and social political issues play a massive role in trying to capture a message with my illustrations, as well as exploring the rich tapestry of South Asian culture and community.

Who is your role model and why?

My grandparents for sure. From their humble beginnings, they were able to uplift themselves and their children all while contributing to their community’s growth. Between the four of them, I’ve learnt about everything from the value of discipline and working hard. The importance of financial independence and exploring spirituality. Oh and a reminder each time to never settle and get married from my grandmothers!

What advice would you give other struggling artists who might not believe in their craft or might not have the support they need to showcase their talent?

It’s so important to build a solid and unshakable foundation that comes from yourself first- one that’s built by recognizing what your purpose and goals are with your art (and yes therapeutic self-expression and just for fun is a purpose), what’s your voice and what makes you excited about it. Once I’ve kinda figured out what I wanted to communicate through my art, it became easier to deal with those harder days where self-doubt and demotivation kicks in.

Just keep pushing yourself to stay true to that foundation you’ve built, but at the same time realize that there’s almost always no final destination so you’re always going to keep growing and evolving as an artist.

Also I’d say in terms of support for your art and possibly making a career out of it, be prepared to work a little bit harder to convince those around you, be persistent and do a lot of research about your options. And know that nothing can prevent this from happening if it’s really what you want. And if you can’t seem to gain support from those around you, remember that you have a whole creative community online ready to.

To follow Darshini’s amazing artistic journey, be sure to follow her on instagram @darsh_illustration. For more South Asian content, be sure to show us some love and support by following Crown The Brown!

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