Musician, writer and performer Vivek Shraya will be at this year’s Indian Summer Festival as part of the ‘5 by 15’ panel on July 16, in which five people will speak on various subjects for 15 minutes.
Shraya will focus on a photo series recreated from some of her mother’s old photos – nine vintage photos exploring themes of motherhood, immigration and misogyny – and will also be doing some reading.
Writing it down
Shraya is also co-editor, along with Karen Campos Castillo, of Heartbeats.
“It’s a website that showcases bodies and people not visible in media: different [body] sizes, race, gender…it’s increasing visibility for those who are under-represented,” says Shraya, who alternates between photography work and writing interviews for the website.
The Toronto-based artist has also written a book of poetry, Even This Page is White, where she tackles racism, especially, systemic racism.
“Often we think we’re not racist because we haven’t done this or that or used a certain word…it’s not overt and we live under the guise that racism doesn’t exist anymore. Let’s keep talking about it,” she says.
Shraya shares ideas about musical projects with her family and friends, but says writing is more of a solo endeavour.
“Whatever fears, insecurities one has, every single writer feels that as well – and I’ve met some acclaimed writers who feel that way. I find writing the hardest medium…trust your core, do it and make time for it. Art and music is like a muscle…by exercising it, it’s flexing one’s artistic muscle,” says Shraya.
Shraya is a finalist of numerous awards (Lambda Literary award, 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award) and recipient of the 2015 Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction.
“Making art for 14 years, it can feel solitary and you’re not sure if you’re making an impact. So it’s nice to be recognized,” she says.
Musical family roots
Shraya grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and moved to Toronto when she was 21-years-old. She describes that period of her life, in a big city, as very different from what it is now – it was a time before modern musical technology such as Myspace and MP3.
“My first foray [into the arts] was singing in a religious non-denominational Hindu organization,” Shraya says, adding she wrote her first song at 13.
Currently, Shraya is part of a music duo called Too Attached with her brother, who she has collaborated with many times in recent years.
“Last year, there was a magic there and we felt passionate so we thought, let’s formalize this,” adds Shraya, who says her brother has an extensive musical background as a beatboxer, DJ, and music producer.
Working with her brother can be challenging in a good way.
“I don’t think conflict is a bad thing. It’s about having healthy conflict: how to grow and learn from our conflicts. We are each other’s number one fan and we are not newbies [in the industry]. We really respect each other’s experiences,” says Shraya.
As an artist, who makes work about marginalized identities and having to navigate accountability and responsibility when speaking to such broader issues, Shraya commends the many activists who already do such a great job.
“I don’t want to overstep that…at the end of the day, I see myself as an artist and it’s a privilege to have that platform. I worry about failing the members of my community. I can only tell my story,” says Shraya.