The journey that lead to the creation of “Intercultural” began long before my time.
If I may take you back to the British Raj era, the year of 1891 when my great great grandmother a girl of six years old played on the beach in Goa, India. A British soldier approached her and offered candy, which she accepted as a kind gesture. He then offered her more although expressed that she must follow him as there was a stash of candy to be had on his ship. Lured by the sweetness, innocently she followed him. Once on board the soldier lead her into a shipping crate where he sealed the entrance and trapped her. She lived in this crate for a month sailing along the oceanic route from the west coast of India to the Island of Fiji. Anchored in the Port of Lautoka she was taken to a sugar cane plantation where she continued life as a slave. There she met my great great grandfather a nine year old boy also a child slave who had been kidnapped from India.
Generations had passed on the colonized island of Fiji when in 1963 my father a young boy and grandmother were officially recognized as British subjects when they boarded the Southern Cross bound for Great Britain.
Landing at the infamous London Docks they were not welcomed by all in the motherland. As you may imagine racism was prevalent in London during this period.
Despite a lineage of deplorable relation my father fell in love with an English woman. Therein lay the genes that spawned my life in the country known to modern man as the United Kingdom.
My name is Sheinina Lolita Raj, a person who was born from distinctively diverse ancestors, culturally, religiously, linguistically and physically.
Racially speaking I am half Indian and half English. I do however consider myself Canadian. Believing in the promised land of Canada my parents immigrated to Vancouver when I was five years old. Hopeful that I would enjoy a peaceful life free of prejudices we said farewell to loved ones for good.
Although, the truth is you cannot run from racism. As a child I remember tearfully expressing to my father how I did not want to be brown as children would often tease.
While I have grown to appreciate the tonality of my skin, in this era of cultural assimilation my identity continues to be misunderstood.
As a person of ethnic descent living in the multicultural metropolis of Los Angeles for more than a decade, I’ve become keenly aware of racial prejudices.
Mankind has evolved to visually interpret their environment, a survival instinct ensures individuals are categorized.
When the color of my skin presents an unfamiliar reference, inevitably a barrier of discriminative notions are formed.
In honor of cultural diversity, “Intercultural” reflects just how different yet the same we are.
Adorned in the worldly traditional regalia of India, Saudi-Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Mexico, Native America, Hawaii, Guatemala and North America, the collection self-portraiture unifies authentic heritage.
As cultures around the world collide this art could not come at more precarious time.
Raising awareness to the misinterpretation of the nationalities living our modern day societies, “Intercultural” enlightens ideologies while initiating a common respect for all humanity and ultimately a peaceful coexistence.
As a former resident of Toronto I cannot imagine a more appropriate city to launch this exhibition. - Sheinina Raj