The Youth Outlook is honored to feature Mathushaa Sagthidas as our featured youth artist! Hear from Mathushaa and view samples of her work below.
Before I considered myself a Tamil British photographer, creative director and stylist, I was quite simply just a fine art student. To reach this stage of considering myself more as a creative than a student was quite a journey. Growing up and in school, majority of my work really revolved around fine art based work - a lot painting and sculpture work that didn't really have much of a meaning but showcased more of my artistic skills. It wasn't until year 13 (a-levels) where I finally started to explore my parents history and lived experiences during the Sri Lankan Civil war and the impact it has had since on the Tamil community. At that point it was always something that I was curious about and wanted to understand, but I was well aware my parents stories and difficulties they faced coming to the UK wasn't easy and I think that's what made me hesitant to ask before my A-Levels. This is the point where my interest in my culture and hertiage started, but my interest for photography began after I took part in one week photography workshop and after just one week, I started to consider doing photography as a career.
This led to me doing fashion promotion during my foundation year and that's how I discovered my love for fashion photography, which really changed the way I was working at the time - I became more interested in fashion and styling rather than fine art. Without the course I don't think I would've considered fashion photography as a creative outlet; however I did feel limited in what I can explore and create when it came looking into my identity. Studying photography as my degree is where I finally felt like I had more creative freedom to explore who I am and where I stood with my dual identity as a Tamil British. This was also where I became drawn to fine art again, whilst still being strongly influenced by fashion photography. Having gone through these various experiences, I would say my work is really a strong representation of my creative outlets - creative directing, fine art, fashion photography and styling. However, it is also a strong representation of my Tamil identity as well the south Asian community, especially south Asian women. South Asian/ Tamil women such as my mum, who has been strong inspiration for majority of my work. In this time, I have been able to work with my mum in a more collaborative process, going beyond just having conversations about Tamil culture (which have amazing contributions towards building ideas for my projects, something that I am grateful for). We actually did a shoot together for my artistic practice, a part of Burnt Roti's family lockdown series - highlighting how creatives have managed to keep their craft going despite the restrictions and limitations. Working with my mum I have learned more about female Tamil traditions and their importance, whilst acknowledging and teaching others about different experiences that South Asian women go through. Without the conversations and sentimental moments with her, I wouldn't have been able to create the work that I do make but most importantly I wouldn't feel so reconnected to my Tamil identity and my Amma (means mum in Tamil), if it wasn't for her.
Mathushaa Sagthidas’s photography showcases a strong interest in fine art, contemporary fashion and styling; skills further studying fashion promotion at Ravensbourne University London and fine art photography at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL. Mathushaa’s work often examines her identity - Tamil Eelam ethnicity and British nationality, which is a pivotal part of her work. This complex cultural identity is often reflected through traditions, history, and strongly by fashion photography. Mathushaa feels that her work surrounding Tamil culture plays an important part in embracing the history and heritage. As Tamils were once considered “an enormous strain on the system” in London during the nineties, the time of mass immigration (5:48 – 6:17, Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A, 2018). Something she finds ironic as many institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum were built and have financially grown off the backs of colonization of the sub-Indian continent. From these few glimpses of research that has impacted her artistic growth, she has begun to develop a deeper appreciation of her parents' background and felt lucky to learn about their history first hand. This has led to an engagement in a new process of constructing south Asian identity through the projects she creates. Mathushaa's work has been featured on Campaign Magazine, Graduate Fashion Week, Fashion Scout, FAD Charity, Anisha Parmar London, MESA Magazine, Asian Woman Festival, and more. Check it out!