Mathushaa, on being a South Asian Creative
Up and coming fashion photographer and stylist known as mathuxphotos
on Instagram (Mathushaa Sagthidas) is a London born creative strongly inspired by her dual identity of Tamil ethnicity and British nationality, as well as her Tamil culture, heritage and history. She takes these key inspiring and empowering aspects of her life forward into her work, to reflect on her identity whilst bringing representation to South Asian women. Her work has been featured on Graduate Fashion Week, Fashion Scout, FAD Charity, Asian Woman Festival, Lone Design Club, South Asian Heritage Month, Ruthless Magazine, Glass Magazine, BrownGirlMagazine, Redefining Concepts, YesGurl, AVRA, Fashion Observed.
We had the chance to talk to her about being a South Asian creative, overcoming barriers and her creative relationship with her bicultural identity.
Where did you interest in creative arts come from?
"It actually started when I was younger - I simply just loved drawing, and this love developed more when I was in secondary school and studied fine art for my GCSEs and A-Levels. I didn’t have any interest for photography until I actually took part in this one week photography workshop I had to do for school, as work experience. At the time it really confused me in terms of what I wanted to study at university - especially growing up in a South Asian household, where you are expected go to university straight after finishing school. But to keep short, my interest in fashion photography began in foundation studying fashion promotion and I haven’t looked back since."
When did you realise you wanted to create work around your identity?
"From what I remember, it actually started after I took part in a teen tour with the photographers gallery in London, talking about an artist's work reflecting war. This was something that I could relate to, to some extent due to my parents' history with the Sri Lankan civil war, and this led to me creating my first project surrounding this topic during my A-Levels. Despite being born and raised in London, this project just sparked an interest and passion in my Tamil culture and heritage, especially growing up and being influenced by my culture since I was a child - and so this has been something that is important to bring into my art. Creating work surrounding Tamil culture is not only important to me, as I’m creating something that I truly care about, but it is also empowering to create something that other South Asians, especially Tamil, creatives can understand and relate to."
Why do you feel that creating work surround your identity is important?
"My work around aspects of Tamil history and culture started off as something quite personal, but it then grew to become something different and more about representing South Asians, especially after experiencing environments where I tend to be the only person of colour in the room. What’s crazy is that there is so many South Asian creatives out there but most the of time the industry either misrepresents or doesn't represent South Asians, or, worse, is guilty of cultural appropriating South Asian culture."
In terms of your creative journey, is there anything you would change? Any regrets?
"I wouldn’t say I have any regrets because everything happens for a reason and certain decisions you make can really impact your next move. However, I do wish that in past and when I was younger, I would be more confident within my creative ideas and not let anyone make me feel limited in terms of what I create. Saying this, getting past this has definitely been a part of my creative growth."
What challenges did you overcome to continue to study photography?
"Of course, being a part of the South Asian community, studying something creative rather than academic or traditional tends to be frowned upon and judged. I never actually sat down and had a conversation with my parents about what I’m studying, despite knowing what their worries were. I just thought why spend time trying to convince them (let’s be real south Asian parents are hella stubborn) when I could just prove to them that there are so many opportunities within the creative industry, something that I feel that I am doing and will continue to do."
What are your goals?
"I’m actually going to be graduating this year, so I’m quite focused on trying to find a 9-5 job - preferably something to do with social media, but of course because of the virus this is more difficult so I’ve just been focused in finding various opportunities working predominantly with South Asian creatives - something that I enjoy and will probably continue to do on the side."
Any advice you would give to other up and coming south Asian creative out there?
"In terms of advice, I guess I would say:
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel limited in the artwork you create and are passionate about
I know that being South Asian, it tends to be frowned upon when studying something creative, but I did it anyway and do not regret it at all, as I’m doing something I’m genuinely passionate about - basically, just prove them wrong.
Social media is powerful tool, use to your advantage and create an aesthetic that represents you. Not only putting your work out there is amazing but you’re able to so many creatives and gain opportunities this way too."
I’ve also written a blog post talking my experiences with more tips, check it out below!
You can see more of Mathushaa’s work on her socials, linked below