On a sunny afternoon, I walked into an event where Shanaya was showcasing her art. The setting was perfect. Record music played in the background, while the sea on the right was calm and at the dead center were compelling works of art created by Shanaya. The paintings depicted women in a refreshing, distinctive and bright form.
I had a chance to speak to the amiable, sweet, open Shanaya, someone you are sure to love.
1) Tell us a little bit about your journey…
I was born in Queens, New York in 1993. My dad is a Parsi and my mom is a Gujarati. Six months after meeting each other, my parents got married. My dad was 20 yrs old and my mom 26. It was very atypical of them considering it was the 80’s.
After I was born, in typical Indian style, my grandparents came to help. Both my parents worked full time. But after my grandparents left, it was difficult for my parents to manage since their jobs were very time-consuming. So, I went back to living with my grandparents. I had a really nice childhood. I didn’t see my parents a lot but I never really felt it. I thought I had two sets of parents. One that lived away and one that raised me.
I moved back to the US and when I was a Pre-Med student, my grandmother who raised me suddenly passed away. My timings got messed up and I missed so much of my school. It became more realistic that I couldn’t afford med school and I had also lost a lot of motivation after losing my grandmother.
“She was my mom. The one who kept the family together.”
But I was also pursuing arts and decided to stick with that as I was doing it anyway. I graduated in December and came to Mumbai to visit my grandfather before getting a job to be able to spend time with him. He was 85 years old at that time and we both realized this could be the last time we see each other. I couldn’t take it. So I went back for 25 days, packed my stuff and left the US to come and take care of him. I have been here in Mumbai since…
Shanaya in her home studio
2) How did you know you are an artist?
“I never fit in. Growing up all you wanna do is fit in. But it’s just the way I think. That’s how I know I was born an artist because what I always assumed was normal thinking nobody ever thinks that way. I tend to see things for more than they are. It’s a gift and a curse.”
The very things that made me stand out define who I am today. My tattoos are the biggest ice-breakers. My personality, my Persian Indian identity, and background have solidified that I will never fit in. I like that about me now. People who meet me may not remember my name, but they will always remember my tattoos. You gotta embrace the kinks is what I have learned.
Art school really taught me a lot too and it is all coming together for me. My aim is to make a difference in my own way.
3) How do you think the artist community can grow?
“Individual success in the art world has a limitation. At some point, you will reach a plateau. In order for artists to grow, we need to work together.”
There will always be something that one would have and the other wouldn’t. We are in an age that creative people are gaining respect but there is also so much competitiveness. But what needs to be realized is that not only do you hurt the other person but also yourself. An example of that is pricing. Let’s say we both create similar kind of work in terms of efforts, skills etc. I price it a certain way but you decide to sell at a 50% lesser cost. The buyer obviously buys from you, which is fine for the short term. But in the long run, the value of the art goes down. But if we work together as a community, we can decide on pricing and other factors that are important for every artist.
We will see how it goes but I am positive. Everybody tells me this is the right time to be in Mumbai, so I am excited to see how it all turns out.
4) What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of a traditional woman artisan?
“Artisans are the purest form of artists. Their hands on methods in their craft and their dedication to their work allow them to give the world an essence of culture and talent.”
Thank you Shanaya! Love your authenticity and heart to help everyone. xx