(Un)Suitable Girls: Third Annual Artists’ Showcase and Fundraiser

Friday, March 24 – Monday, April 10, 2000

@ Paisley
49 East 21st Street
New York, NY

Featuring the works of Jaishri Abichandani, Fariba Alam, Amita Bhatt, Safia Fatimi, Chitra Ganesh, Shalini Kantayya, Swati Khurana, Annu Mathew, Karla Murthy, Prema Murthy, Annua Ratha, Prerana Reddy, Sonya Shah and Tejal Shah.

Tuesday, April 18, 2000
Panel Discussion and Performances featuring DJ Rekha, Prema Murthy, Shazia Sikander, Sonia Arora, D’Lo, Aditi Dhruv, Taij Kumarie Moteelall, Sunita S. Mukhi, Neel Murgai, Habiba Noor, the SHINE Movement, Rashmi and Sangeeta Vallabhan — with special recognition to Lavina Melwani, this year’s recipient of the SAWCC Annual Achievement Award.


(Un)Suitable Girls marks the third anniversary of the founding of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. This year, SAWCC stretched its wings a little further with the first-ever SAWCC visual arts show, held at Paisley Gallery on March 24, and now, with its first collection of fiction, artwork, and poetry. Much of the work in this book has been shared in monthly meetings or workshopped with other SAWCC artists. This work is so fresh, it’s falling off the vince.

In the tradition of previous annual events — “KarmaKollage” in 1998 and “Tattoo This!” in 1999 — this year’s annual event showcases women who have something different to say, who challenge the stereotypes and institutions that constrain them as South Asian women artists. The name for 2000’s annual event series, “(Un)Suitable Girls,” was chosen because the motif of suitability versus unsuitability rings true for all sisters of the South Asian diaspora. The face value of our families, our community, and our race as a whole seems to hinge on the “suitability” of girls and women. We, as South Asian women, deal with our own measurements of womanhood based on whether or not we fit this prescription. We all know the societal terms of suitability: submissiveness, “fairness,” beauty, “good” family, professional status, etc. These terms are heavily and strategically constructed in order to incapacitate the free female spirit.

(Un)Suitable Girls is challenging the age-old notion that women are commodities to be bought, sold, advertised, and owned. Matrimonial ads, the perpetual double standard that many of us grew up with, messages of ideal womanhood from Western media — from the oversexed, Oriental, exotic, hot-blooded dark women to white-as-snow Victorian chastity, to the virgin-whore dichotomy, to the Oedipal complex wherein every man’s, desis included, ideal woman is his mother — keep both men and women in mental incarceration. It leads to many women believing that this how to get a man and become a “real” woman, and vice versa.

Upon challenging this dominant social structure, many have been marginalized, ridiculed, or even shut out of family and community. This suppression has fractured and fragmented all of our psyches — parents and children, men and women. We must all acknowledge our part in this, and now, we must all move toward healing. Challenging any bizarre concept of purity and rightness, whether against suitability, marriageability, value, or any claim of unabashed superiority, is the (pre)occupation of the artist-visionary.