The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) held its first meeting in March of 1997 at the offices of the Sister Fund in Manhattan. Fourteen South Asian women of diverse ages and sexualities attended that meeting, invited through word of mouth and meetings at various grassroots spaces, particularly Sakhi for South Asian Women and the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association. Soon after, women began to gather monthly at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop to facilitate and present their work. At that time, there were no other (feminist or otherwise) South Asian arts–based organizations in New York, making SAWCC an eclectic and unique space of support and community.
Our first public event was a festival for women of color at the Audre Lorde Project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. This was followed by SAWCC’s first annual festival of visual art and performance, Karmakollage, which took place at the Gallery at 678 to an audience of over 400 diverse, enthusiastic supporters.
Within a year and a half, a volunteer board emerged, and SAWCC applied for nonprofit status and became incorporated. In February 2000, we set up a listserv for South Asian women artists and creative professionals, which includes over 500 members. Our writing workshop Brown Eyed Girls was initiated in 2002, and a studio circle for visual artists began in 2006.
SAWCC continues to hold public events such as our annual visual arts exhibition, performances, film screenings, talks, and literary events, which have given visibility to emerging and established women artists, writers, and academics, connecting industry professionals to women who would otherwise not have access to these resources. Though our outreach had been mostly through word of mouth, over fifteen years later we reach an annual audience of over 5,000. From its inception as a small artists’ community to its current status as a nationally-recognized nonprofit, SAWCC offers a phenomenal venue for South Asian women to connect through creative practice.