Photo Credit: Zain Shivji
What was it like growing up?
I grew up on Coast Salish Land that belongs to the Musqueam, Sḵwx̱wúmesh- Squaimish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples aka Vancouver. I grew up poor and lived in B.C housing with predominantly my mother and my sister. I grew up in a Hindu and Catholic home that perpetuated a lot patriarchal, sexist and heteronormaitve ideals. I didn’t recognize or come into my queerness until my later teen years. I carried a lot of internalized homophobia.
How did you come out? What does that mean to you?
I came out to myself when I was about 18/19; I really started to question my sexuality. I came out to my mother when I was 22/23 in a conversation in our kitchen where she asked me if I was a lesbian, at the moment I said yes, I figured it wasn’t the time to get into what Queer meant.
A lot of my extended family does not live in the same city/country so I have been slowly been able to come out to people that I feel safe with. There are many people in my family that don’t know I am queer.
What has been your inspiration in life?
My mother has become a source of my inspiration. She has worked so hard her whole life and continues to work hard. She has endured a lot as an immigrant, brown women and she has such an empathetic heart.
QTIPOC (Queer, Trans*, Indigenous, People of Colour) are a constant source of inspiration for me and specifically my fellow poor QTIPOC folks. The ways we fight to be seen and heard, the ways we shine and share our truths, and the ways in which we create from, work though, and heal from trauma together.
Meeting other Queer and gender non-conforming South Asian folks who are doing such powerful important work this past July at Desi Q was a huge source of inspiration for me.
What has been some of your greatest achievements?
This past few years I feel very proud that I have made (and sold!) art that has been in my heart for a long time. I have started making greeting cards (Queer, solstice, Diwali etc.) and radical posters that celebrate: Queer and Trans* folks of colour, brown women and other groups that don’t get celebrated and recognized enough.
This past year I started a performance group with a friend of mine Zain called: Desi Femme Power. We are a spoken word, singing, glittery duo that touch on many topics including: inter-generational trauma & survival, racism, transphobia, homophobia, healing, love, strength and poverty.
What is your message to the world?
Surround yourself with people that love you and that can see your worth. I have learned that it has been the people I’ve choose to have in my life that have helped me see that I can really achieve anything I want. Finding and connecting with communities I feel good in have helped me and continue to help me be the powerful femme that I am. Growing up in poverty affects so much of us; the effects of systemic poverty are real and I feel you. I am constantly fighting and raising my voice to have my narratives be heard. You are powerful! You are strong! You are beautiful. Don’t believe the lies that main stream societies feeds us. Write your own stories, create your own art, carve your own paths in the ways that make sense and feel good to you.
Jotika is a multidisciplinary artist and activist who is a fierce, brown femme. She creates art to heal, learn, inspire, listen, observe, fight and dream. Her art is a piece of her activism; she makes visual art as well as writes and sings. She is working on her Bachelor of Social Work. She is a queer, poor, South Asian women whose roots are in Northern India and Fiji. She was born and raised as a settler on land that was stolen from the xʷməθkʷəy̓ə – Musqueam, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh – Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.