Global Roundup: Queer Indigenous Exhibit, Homestays Offer Women Financial Freedom in South Asia, ESEA Heritage Month in the UK, Black as Night Vampire Flick, #XustizaMaruxaina
Compiled by Samiha Hossain
Detail from “Bernice Aviuk Oyagak, 2021” Credit: Jenny Irene Miller vis Xtra
Indigenous artist Jenny Irene Miller and filmmaker Alexis Anoruk Sallee collaborated on a project called Dear Kin, opening at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska later this month. Their project is a “moving love letter to queer Indigenous folks.” Dear Kin is a storytelling project that highlights individuals from the Alaska Native Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ community through video and portraiture.
Community, to me, means being in relation with people and place. My community is where I’m from—the people, the lands, the waters—community is being in kinship with them, having a reciprocal relationship. - Jenny Irene Miller
The people in Dear Kin are artists, musicians and teachers, parents and they are all doing critical work in their communities to revitalize their Indigenous languages and reactivate cultural art processes and ways of being. Each person is featured in a video where they tell their story in a voiceover and they each get a portrait made. The videos are going to be exhibited on a big screen and the portraits will be printed in a large format, will be installed on the walls leading into the theatre, as if the people in the portraits are welcoming the viewers.
In my art practice, I’m exploring how my work can take up space, from the size of the photographs to the form a body of work takes as an exhibition, while also thinking about how to centre Indigenous and queer stories…Each person featured is physically taking up space in the museum gallery that historically wasn’t designed for people like us. - Jenny Irene Miller
Miller believes it is important to include LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit people who have been rejected by their family and the community because of changes brought on by colonization and forced assimilation. Miller and Sallee hope that the project resonates with others, especially young queer people.
Alex and I talked about the project’s title, Dear Kin, as being a letter to past, present and future Indigenous queer relatives. In the present, we are celebrating these people and elevating their stories. We’re honouring past Indigenous queer relatives who maybe werent afforded the opportunity to be out. And as for the future, these videos and photographs will become part of a greater archive. - Jenny Irene Miller
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Simu Ladol serves her homestay guests with local tea in Ladakh, India in July 2016. Handout by Homestays of India
A growing number of women in South Asia are opening their homes to guests to earn money, which is helping them gain financial independence and revitalise remote communities and promote sustainable tourism.
Abida Ghulam Jilani, mother-of-five, who left school when she got married aged 18, began hosting visitors in 2019 in Pakistan. She has made more than 60,000 rupees since March last year, allowing her to buy her first washing machine and a giant flat screen TV.
I can run the place while being at home and looking after my children ... I like that. Culturally, we have always been hospitable, but I didn't know we could earn money like this. - Abida Ghulam Jilani
In India, experts say that women’s employment has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Most employed women in India work in farm and factory labour and domestic help, sectors that have been hit hard by strict lockdowns that forced 1.3 billion people to stay home. However, the lockdown has led to a boom in domestic tourism as Indians flocked to hill towns and beaches in what the government has termed "revenge travel". This increase in people looking for “workcations” has presented an opportunity for women to generate incomes from their homes.
Overall, women in South Asia see their ability to host visitors as a positive. For instance, one woman says running her homestay in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand had helped turn her from a shy mother-of-three who feared talking to strangers to a leader of the village council.
I have become a lot more confident, smarter and more outgoing. I also have a better understanding of money management now. This has changed my life. - Veena Dandwal, 40
VIV YAU AND KAI, TWO FOUNDING MEMBERS OF THE FIRST ESEA HERITAGE MONTH. ALL PHOTOS: JENNIFER LO via VICE
The UK has South Asian Heritage Month in August and Black History Month in October. With the pandemic causing a spike in anti-Asian violence and racism in Europe, the US and the UK, besea.n (Britain’s East and South East Asian Network) decided there was a need to have a date to mark the contributions or culture of East and South East Asian (ESEA) communities in the UK. They hope to get September officially recognised as ESEA Heritage Month in the UK, with a petition lobbying the government almost at 2,000 signatures and support from Labour MP Sarah Owen. VICE met with the six founding women of besea.n to discuss their motivations.
Amy Phung, 36, found that not many people understood what she was going through at the beginning of the pandemic when news reports were coming out calling the virus "the China virus.” Ultimately, she started seeking out and connecting with more people like her.
I started telling my friends, "I feel really scared to go outside." I remember a lot of them – these were my white friends – would say, "Oh, no, don't worry, you're being silly, no one's gonna attack you." And although they were being kind and trying to put me at ease, it didn't work. They just didn't understand that fear of having a virus literally named after your ethnicity. - Amy Phung
Many of the cofounders talk about the importance of acknowledging that they are not representative of the entire ESEA community. They also want to raise more awareness that so many East Asians and South East Asians are racialized as Chinese.
Being Asian in Britain isn't just being Chinese. It encompasses many, many other nationalities and also ethnic backgrounds. Because we don't have such an education and awareness of that, a Heritage Month is a really good way of sharing that information, both educationally but also as a form of connection between between us. – Karlie Wu, 25
Kai, 29, talks about how as a teacher, she’s experienced a lot of casual racism in the classroom, which shows how normalized racism against Asians is. As a model minority, many of her challenges are downplayed or dismissed. She believes that if people learn more about different cultures, it will reduce ignorant attitudes.
Overall, the co-founders all believe that their grassroots organizing will go a long way in creating awareness that will help change the status quo when it comes to racism against the ESEA community.
I think the lack of representation in positions of power in the media and politics is something that we really need to work on as a community; work on taking space, work on occupying that space and owning it and thriving in a world that's not necessarily always been made for us. It's about standing up and being seen. - Charley Wong, 29
black as night still via The Advocate
Black as Night is a new vampire film, which subverts the mainstream blonde, bubbly, and white teenage vampire slayer. The movie is both a coming-of-age tale and an exploration of centuries of racial inequality in the United States, and how these earliest events directly link to present circumstances. The screenwriter Sherman Payne wants to give young Black women space in a genre where they are left underrepresented.
I was reacting directly towards sort of the most recent wave of vampire media that’s come out over the last 10 or 15 years. You know, I think about shows that I really love, like True Blood, Vampire Diaries, the Twilight series, and they all have a very specific type as their protagonists. I wanted to write something that really honored my culture of Black people and Black women that I know where it’s a little more take charge, and I wanted to give them a little more of a hero cape. – Sherman Payne
It was also important to Payne to write a fully developed gay character that does not fall into common tropes.
Director Maritte Lee Go was drawn to Black as Night because it offered her an opportunity to tell a story about a young woman who was experiencing some of the same struggles she faced as a child. An important theme in the movie is the role of colourism in the Black community, which Go relates to.
I’m Filipino and we’ve got the same type of issues within my own culture. Growing up, my elders would say ‘stay out of the sun, you don’t want to look dark, it’s ugly.’ And that always got stuck in my head… Through our voices, through perspective, through empathy, and jumping into the perspective of this young woman who feels like she’s not beautiful.” But how? “We got to completely flip it on its head and say that Black is beautiful, you are beautiful just the way you are, and that’s your inner strength, that’s your confidence. That is beauty - Maritte Lee Go
The movie’s lead, Cooper, is inspired by the character she plays.
It’s actually pretty emotional for me, because this is what I prayed for... I never really knew if I would be able to work consistently because of how I look, but the industry has definitely changed. – Cooper
The Horror genre particularly is one that has been marred by racism and sexism. Black as Night seems to counter many age-old tropes and provide a fresh take on vampire movies.
Black as Night Trailer:
A Spanish judge has shocked women’s rights groups by dismissing a case involving women being secretly filmed urinating in public and the videos then being posted on porn websites. About 80 women and girls were recorded urinating on a side street because of lack of facilities. They were caught by hidden cameras at the A Maruxaina local festival in the north-western town of Cervo. Many of the women’s faces and genitals were also captured.
Many of the victims took legal action in 2020, calling for the recordings, whose author remains unknown, to be investigated on the grounds that their right to privacy had been violated.
A local judge, Pablo Muñoz Vázquez, shelved the case, triggering an appeal led by the Women for Equality Burela (Bumei) association. He has now confirmed his initial decision not to proceed, on the grounds that because the videos were recorded in a public place they cannot be deemed criminal. He decided that there was "no intention to violate the physical or moral resistance" of the women affected.
And then when I saw the video I was crying, I was really embarrassed, I didn't know really what to do… It makes me feel so frustrated. They are basically saying it is OK if someone records you on the street and then they post it on a porn site and they make money from it. - Jenniffer, one of the women filmed during the local festival in 2019.
The decision not to continue with the case has provoked protests and an online campaign under the hashtag #XustizaMaruxaina (Justice Maruxaina).
Just because you're in a public space, that doesn't mean that filming intimate images and then distributing them is not a crime, because this is about fundamental rights. - Ana García, of the Bumei association
The fact that such a horrific violation of privacy is met with immunity is concerning. Women and girls already face increased discrimination and violence in public spaces. This case is yet another example of how the patriarchy attempts to control women and girls and keep them in fear on the streets.
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.