The Indian Artist: Staying True To My Roots

Happy Sunday everybody! I hope that you are all doing well! Today will be one of my last few posts for this year. I thought that I would share a deeper side of me in this one. I hope that you all enjoy it!

One thing that I have learned by growing up in a strict traditional household practicing a different culture is that people who are not like you want to hold you back, make you more like them. Both of my parents were born and raised in India, coming to the United States for their education and building a great life for my brother and me. I grew up practicing Hinduism, taking part in incredible traditional Indian festivals, and when compared to my friends, I was generally sheltered and not allowed to partake in as much. Initially, it used to bother me when I felt that I was being held back by my culture and religion, feeling as if I was not allowed to do everything I wanted, not allowed to be like the other kids around me. This caused me to resent my culture and religion and run away from it for many years…

However, what I have come to understand as I have grown and matured is that my culture and the core values that my parents have imparted me with are what have made me who I truly am. Growing up in a primarily Caucasian society, I would be constantly berated and belittled for being different. I became used to hearing,

“What are you eating?”

“What are you wearing?”

“Why aren’t you allowed to do this?”

Now, I understand that I was not held back by my family nor my culture, or religion. Rather, I was held back by the belief that I had to be like everybody else around me. I was held back by the belief that being different was wrong. I was held back thinking that my culture, something that I am now so proud of, was holding me back from doing the same things my friends were doing. I have come to learn time and time again how important it is to pull against anybody or anything that holds you back, even when that person is yourself. My own thoughts, perpetuated by the actions and words of others around me, held me back from embracing a beautiful culture that has made me who I am today. I have learned how important it is to stay true to yourself and your roots.

In this piece, done in colored pencil and gold leafing, I demonstrate being held back literally. I show a depiction of myself reaching out to the viewer, dressed in a traditional sari, attempting to pull against the two hands on either side of me trying to hold me back. By wearing the sari I am embracing my culture, adding a layer of traditional Indian heritage with the gold leafing and garb. The hands represent the various forces that are holding me back from embracing myself. This piece was so cathartic to create both in its message as well as through the technique of foreshortening.

I have been meaning to write this post for some time but was wary of sharing and did not completely know how to put my thoughts into words. I hope that everything I talked about made some type of sense and that you all enjoyed reading some of my realizations and epiphanies. Thank you all so much for taking the time out of your day to read my words. As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts! Looking forward to next Sunday.


~ Riya


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Riya Aggarwal

My name is Riya and I am currently a Sophomore at Umich. Art has been a huge passion of mine from a very young age and in this column, I look forward to sharing my perspectives and outlooks on life (and specifically my culture) through my personal work!

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