It feels like one of the biggest pressures in society is finding someone to spend the rest of your life with. Marriage is a hallmark of many cultures and religions, and somehow womanhood seems to be traditionally defined by this institution. Nothing wrong with marriage itself, but cultural mindsets around it can be distressing. South Asian culture places a huge importance on marriage and to whom you get married. Lives revolve around this pursuit and it creates incredible confines. What does a dulhan look like and how does she act? What is expected of her?
We found a project called 'Not Your Dulhan' that explores these concepts. And since HYFN is all about dialogue, empowerment and uniqueness, we dig it. Speaking about cultural challenges and sharing varying perspectives leads to conversations that can challenge the norms. Reva Bhatt, one of the creators, gave us a little bit of background on this project.
Pictured from Left to Right: Shreya Kumar, Josephine Shetty, Priyanka Kanse
Tell us a bit about this project.
”Not Your Dulhan”, a collaborative photo series by Jasdeep, Pragya and I (Reva), explores how 3 different womxn challenge the stereotypes and expectations surrounding the “perfect dulhan” (bride) within the South Asian community. We asked three womxn we’d never met before what their thoughts were on the idea of marriage and ultimately hoped to capture those conversations surrounding colorism, ageism, and sexuality within our series. We learned that despite their unique backgrounds, these womxn share a thread of common experience which they express through small acts of resistance in an effort to redefine the institution of marriage. #NotYourDulhan is about these womxn transcending beyond the guilt of choosing themselves by reclaiming a level of consciousness.
What inspired you to speak on this aspect of our culture? Are there personal experiences tied to this idea that you can share?
This series stems from our lived experiences as brown womxn. Jasdeep, Pragya and I all come from different backgrounds, yet we all seem to have a “Mina Aunty” lecturing us about marriage at the dinner table. Most of the time, we brush off our parents’ remarks about all the “nice boys” that will be at summer shaadi and how Mina Aunty’s son from Stanford is in town. But ultimately, we’re terrified - terrified of the abstract that still somehow has the power to control our everyday reality. It’s crazy to think that our identity will always live, for our parent’s generation at least, in a subconsciousness where marriage defines our success.
What do you plan on doing with it next?
“Not Your Dulhan” is up at the Sol Collective exhibit in Sacramento, CA for the rest of March. Beyond the current exhibit, we hope to take the exhibit to different spaces and to continue promoting open and global dialogue about the institution of marriage through #NotYourDulhan.
Looking forward to hearing the conversation that develops.
You can see the full series and read more about the project by visiting the artists' various platforms:
photography Jasdeep Kang
art direction Reva Bhatt
on-set art direction Pragya Bhatt