Ayqa Khan is a first-generation Pakistani-American artist challenging society’s patriarchal archetypes one image at a time.
Khan’s work, beautifully displayed on her Tumblr, is essentially a celebration of carefree women of color: beautiful, bold, and hairy. The colors are entrancing, the depictions are relatable, the hair is obvious and intentional, screaming through the confidence in every subject- a brilliant mixture of South Asian Desi traditions and American culture.
"It's really about how South Asian women are both stereotyped and represented, and also how we view the female body in all types of mediums," she told W-eNews. It was no surprise that the hairiness depicted on all of her female subjects has become the focal point of her work.
What she didn't expect, however, was the response of critics following a Buzzfeed article that showcased a compilation of her work. As the post gained popularity, some commenters sought to ridicule her work, calling its depictions "a nightmare" and "next level yuck" to name a few. As the conversation raged on, Ayqa stepped in with her own statement about her work-- admittedly, for the first time-- on her blog.
Making it clear that her intent is far more to normalize than to protest or counteract, she stated: "When a FEMALE is attacking another FEMALE on what to do with her body, that is an issue to me. My mother owns a beauty salon where she has made me get waxed ever since I was about 11 because she thought that the hair that was given to my body was 'unfeminine'. What bothered me the most was not the pain of getting waxed, but the idea that she thought something natural about me was 'gross'. I felt looked at as an object, rather than a HUMAN. People from my school would stare at my thick arm hair in disgust really. And yes, this made me feel really insecure and unworthy."
"It is important for me to recognize the pain and harm that comes with such constructs,” she continued in closing. "There are many issues that society is fighting for in regards to women, and at this point in my life, I am choosing to focus on creating a space of acceptance.”
Khan's work is a testament to the many ways feminism continues to present itself in our everyday lives. It's not easy to let go of societal norms when you have it shoved down your throat 24/7. Even if you prefer clean-shaven legs, the next time you see a woman exerting her power by rejecting the razor, give her a high-five instead of a whisper or stare. Remember, we're all just out here proving that we can do it, too.
Check out more of her beautiful work here.