Mad, brown, and hairy– it’s a label Aisha Mirza have given themselves. Mad as in angry, but also as in a madness that creates the artistic fuel and divine spark. Don’t get all bent out of shape either, their journey is not up for debate or critique. Their journey, like most artists would agree, is matchless. There is no gasping here, no shocked looks, no twisted mouths uttering, How dare they. They dare because it’s a calling and because they can –period. For Aisha Mirza, talking and writing about being mad, brown, and hairy is more than just using adjectives, it’s peeling back the onion, lifting the veil, and getting to the core of the fruit, the world, the self. They write what they know. And they are so self right now.
Self is such a slippery word, but Mirza isn’t recoiling. The strategy of self-care is well worth noting as a way to delve further into self; where self meets self, self meets other selves plus society and other humans. Not to mention, all the types of gazes and categories that can be beds of trickery. Don’t you lay down there in that bed, just no, just don’t. Mirza writes. And often times, the subject matter is touchy, but one we should all want to touch.
Self-care happens to be one of Mirza’s primary techniques against the colonizer’s gaze and their subtle micro-aggression. This is how they permeate social norms and forms of control, by knowing when to remove their body, to know when their body is no longer safe in particular spaces. To leave the space and be the space –that’s magic right there. That’s both intellect and intuition, no doubt a result of growing out their body hair –linking to the nervous system, so much vibration from planets Uranus and Mercury. In going all the way in on self-care, Mirza knows where they stand, which makes their adversaries more visible. They have found plenty of allies and built community, but identifying the aggressor in the midst is their mission. And the hair continues to grow, it transmits messages from ancestral root and finds locations where they can flourish. The hair might even be the pen with which they write their essays.
This is a Southeast Asian body hair and gender non-conforming, queer movement. It’s one that’s gaining momentum and picking up the shards as it chugs along. They are not alone. They are supported by other bodies, which reflect their own. The movement is taking down micro-aggression one hard stare at a time. Mirza recognizes the power of looks and silence –both used as ways that white people have allowed racism to perpetuate the globe. Deliberate negation of such attitudes by whites is just more proof of micro-aggression and non-sense fragility that are both burning down villages where black and brown bodies reside and resist.
It is written on the body, but that’s not enough. Mirza documents through writings and film. Their legacy is already been put into motion, building upon itself, protecting and preserving black and brown bodies.
Mirza discusses their work with The Turmeric Project. “Where people hold the grief of being disgusting,” raises questions, but also eyebrows and leg hair and beards. What is disgusting anyways, but a concept that goes against the European standard of beauty? What does the colonizer know about beauty when it comes to a black or brown body? And how can a white body understand the grief of a non-white body?
Decolonization has been a huge part of Mirza’s journey. The meeting of diaspora and art cannot be ignored. This is about hoq art changes as a result of the diaspora and how is it used as a tool against the system. Body hair just happens to be one of the responses to these questions, but the answers are as limitless and potent as the number of Southeast Asian deities.
As Mirza allows their body hair to grow, as they exposes body hair for the world to see –either in essay or in aesthetically (un)pleasant photography– they witnesses the effects on the world around them. Mirza invokes a spirit of exploration on the body, through tiny tendrils that stick up from pores wherever they damn well please. In blessing the body by allowing it to be in its most natural state, Mirza gives permission to be self, to be whatever self the universe has granted them in this lifetime.
WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela