Creating Dialogues

Maia Flora is a graduate from Leeds School of Arts, part of Leeds Beckett University. The artist creates powerful moving image about conversation and community. Turban Talks explores questions of race and family from Flora’s home, asking: what does the turban represent? Sat in a single armchair, people living under the same roof share thoughts and memories – “unravelling the stigma and untying the stereotypes.”

The poetic work is part of Leeds School of Arts Festival, a digital degree show platform celebrating students who are responding to an evolving world and challenging our preconceptions about the future. The artist speaks to Aesthetica about the piece, outlining the ideas that drive her creativity.

A: What are the themes explored in Turban Talks?
I was first inspired to make this piece of work when I began having discussions at home with my Dad about his interest in possibly wearing a Turban. As a British Indian family who follow the Sikh religion, this discussion wasn’t completely obscure to us, but it was a new one. We are a family who have grown and adapted to the modern world in the UK, who are covered in tattoos and have cut their hair – something which clashes with the Sikh religion and the act of wearing a Turban. I was interested to discover what this would mean for my Dad and for us as a family, so I started developing this piece. Turban Talks explores how the turban is perceived and exists in the UK today. The performance explores themes of family, with the involvement of my parents and younger brother. It also explores themes of race, as we touch upon being Indian in the UK and the culture and traditions we have as a family and community.

A: Where do you find inspiration?
I’m constantly inspired by those around me. The race, culture and religion I’m a part of holds so much inspiration for me — I am learning all the time as I grow. Being the grandchild of grandparents who were born in India and then immigrated to the UK; being the daughter of British Indian parents who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s; and being a part of a family who have witnessed and been a part of so much… I’m always inspired because they have this richness and wealth of knowledge and experiences to share. On the other hand, as a young British Indian female going about life and trying to progress, I am faced with many situations that my age, gender and ethnicity brings to me. I take all of these moments, thoughts and feelings and channel it through my work.

A: What do you hope audiences will take away from your piece?
I hope audiences recognise that despite coming a long way since those from India immigrated to the UK, there is still so much change and progression to be made. The talk hasn’t ended with just Turbans, there is so much more to discuss and speak openly about. I also hope that those within similar communities to myself feel a sense of support and drive to talk about what they have felt and faced in their day-to-day lives. The talk is for everyone to have.

A: What are your plans? Do you have any projects/ideas lined up?
From doing my final performance I learnt that I have this massive interest in talking about topics that aren’t always spoken about; writing about moments that can be neglected; interviewing voices that are overshadowed; discovering opinions and thoughts people have but haven’t had the chance to share; and learning stories that hold so much power and meaning.

I’m planning on starting a Masters degree – focusing on this love I’ve discovered, and also strengthening my skills to help develop more work. I want to follow this path of creative journalism that intrigues me. The main thing I’ve learnt from this entire experience is that challenging myself always seems to bring about the best outcomes. When it comes to more ideas, I have so many! With Turban Talks, I was able to develop this platform. I can adapt it to “talk” about many other topics to do with race, culture and religion: ideas such as periods, generations and what our grandparents faced when it came to immigration.

A: What can viewers expect from the Leeds School of Arts Festival?
The Leeds School of Arts Festival is full of so many talented and creative individuals who have developed work across various topics and means of working. There is something for every viewer to witness and be a part of. Our idea of a final showcase has ended up being very different, but we have all adapted and have created work we never thought we could. We pushed ourselves and the Online Show holds the passion and love we grew throughout the degree.

Leeds School of Arts Festival is online now. Find out more here.