American Dream For the Second Generation Guyanese Girl

There is one picture that never ceases to both amaze and perplex me as a daughter of immigrants. It’s my parent’s wedding photo taken in 1988 in an old Bronx photo shop, which likely does not exist today. The photo features a shy, 80-pound bride donning a close-fitting, Victorian era dress (minus the ’80s poofy sleeves) and a white top hat. She’s from the developing nation Guyana and her new husband sports a freshly cropped, curly Afro and gray suit. The liberty blue sky and cloud backdrop envelope their eager smiles.

Kamelia's Parents Wedding Photo (Loving the '80s poofy sleeves on my Mom's dress and retro cloud background) Photo Credit: unnamed Bronx photo shop

Kamelia’s Parents’ Wedding Photo (Loving the ’80s poofy sleeves on my Mom’s dress and retro cloud background) Photo Credit: unnamed Bronx photo shop

At the time my Mom had no family members in America, so my Dad’s cousin, who worked at the thrift bridal store offered a hefty discount on the bridal gear, and witnessed her struggle pulling on dress after dress, each one bigger than the last.

Today when my Mom looks at the photo she remembers how cold it was that February day when my parents (and several of my Dad’s relatives) crammed into a two-door vehicle to accompany them on the photo shoot. When I look at the portrait, I am amazed by how much hope this picture encapsulates. If I were my Mom, a 23-year-old with an arranged marriage entering a new country, I would be running to JFK airport in search for a one-way ticket back to Guyana. But she stayed.

I asked my Mom why did she make such a big move, she was a young woman with experience designing clothing and had already held a job at a local sewing shop. But of course the typical narrative of maternal sacrifice and hope for her daughters followed. Despite my pushback and commitment to unmasking my Mom’s saint-like demeanor, I realized she was right.

Growing up I had the cushion of a home in south Queens, a private school education and a television to teleport me to a slew of dreams I may not have had the time to develop if I were a young woman growing up in Guyana, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with an economy based on sugar and rice farming and gold and bauxite mining. As a 13-year-old Guyanese American, I envisioned myself climbing on top of elephants’ backs, teaching in Africa, visiting my country of ancestral origin, India, and hosting talk shows like Tyra Banks and Oprah. Selfish and bold as I felt, I knew I always wanted more. I would never be the woman in search of one goal: to raise and nourish a family.

I’d like to think the shifting paradigm of the American Dream could be more so described as a journey, not necessarily discovering yourself, because that sounds spiritual and abstract, but more as one designed for “go-getters,” a word my Mom uses to describe my two sisters and me. The word is impartial to the amount of money you make, it’s more so based on what you desire.

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How Singing Brought Me Closer to God

A dozen of family and friends gather around–some elderly women on the couch and other mothers, uncles, and children scattered around the bright lighted living room. A collective group of voices sing Hindu chants and devotional songs.

My voice is not good, while I love to talk–singing has never been one of my talents. Sometimes I can carry a tune but belting out a chant in Hindi or singing the rhythms of a demanding bhajan can be nerve-racking for me. Though now I find myself singing, clinging on to the Hindi words praising lord Krishna. It is the way I feel closest to my Grandma and the way I am helping her soul.

In the past I dreaded singing. I felt I had no understanding much less a connection to the music. It was embarrassing for me as a child being forced to sing at mandir or Hindu temples revealing how little I knew about the Hindi language I did not speak.

Since my Grandma passed away I find myself singing in the company of my family members and friends and reading the meanings of songs during wakes.

But even before the days leading up to my Grandmother’s last rites Hindu ceremony or “shraadh”, I found myself singing and praying with immediate family by the bedside of my ailing Grandma. It was the only way I felt I could soothe her pain when words like “Hang in there Gram” proved no longer effective.

As Rabindranath Tagore once wrote in his collection of poems titled Gitanjali, “When grace is lost from life come with a burst of song.” I think that best describes how I felt when singing to my Grandma during her last few days of life.

For me singing bhajans or Hindu songs during my Grandma’s wakes allowed me to forget about the daily stressors of life, leave it all behind, and concentrate on my Grandma and her passing hopefully into a path of liberation as Hindus would say. But so many, including myself, have taken this power of singing for granted until death crosses your path.

Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and Music Saraswati

I argue that if you do believe in a higher being, singing is a way to feel one step closer to that being. It is a personal step one makes to sing with devotion, but when done with no intentions besides reaching a peaceful state God feels much closer to you.

But the very act requires one to submit themselves to be heard–the end result could be glorious and aunties and uncles can be asking you to “sing wan more” or the surrounding audience can be wishing to lower down that mike. It is amazing how so many Indo-Caribbean Hindus are drawn to singing as a method of reaching God but also equally amazing how it took me so long to realize you don’t have to be good to sing.

Many Guyanese and Trinidadian Hindus who emigrated from their home countries to this city do not speak Hindi but they carry their culture and religion through music and song. You can imagine the three worlds Hinduism has managed to pass through: from India, to the West Indies, and then to New York City where West Indian immigrants have created a new life, built a thriving Hindu community of temples, and bring their children to experience the religion and culture.

Throughout Queens songbooks are passed around in places of worship and first-generation youth are trained in music schools all over the city to play the harmonium, sitar, dholak, tabla, and sing bhajans in Hindi–though most of these youth do not speak the language too.

There is something universal about the idea of spreading religion through songs when you do not even speak the language you are singing–you feel the divinity behind the words and that is good enough a reason to sing.

My Grandma was a spiritual woman who found joy and excitement in hearing the latest Prakash Gossai bhajans. Singing to her was a way to connect to the Lord and share in the praise of gods and goddesses through song. She could not converse in Hindi either but she represented the many elderly women who know this power–to sing in temples, during pujas or Hindu ceremonies, and among family and friends despite how good of a singer you may be or whether you completely understand the language.

I have walked into pujas and ceremonies where one may be rendering a song that may not exactly pleasing to the ear and members of the audience are secretly wondering when is this song going to end. I know this because those thoughts have entered my mind too. But many of us have not realized that singing brings a certain power or closeness to God for those in need of it.

When you do–like I did this past week–you will understand that singing is not just music but a movement that has transgressed time, place, and language to establish a unique relationship with yourself and a much more powerful force.

Grandma Julain Khilawan Pardesi

Sunrise November 4, 1935 – Sunset August 6, 2012

The late Julain Khilawan Pardesi: “Mama” of 6 children, “Grams” of 17 grandchildren, and “Granny”of 20 great-grandchildren.

Stepping out of the attic facing the top of the staircase I struggle to keep a stack of toys within my grip. I slowly inch one little foot onto the next step. I can barely see the end of the stairs.

With much concentration I reach halfway down the stairs but suddenly one foot trips in front of the other. In a split second my toys and my little body come crashing down the stairs.

My Grandma turns around and looks at me face down on the floor, my arms and legs sprawled out, and my toys scattered around me.

She stretches out her hand and offers to help me up.

Then she says, “Kameel, take your time and peel your pine.”

Last year I wrote an article in tribute to my Grandma titled “Our Female Sages” It was published on August 6, 2011. This year on August 6, 2012 my Grandma passed away.

I had no knowledge that my Grandma wouldn’t be with me exactly the year after my article about her was published but I have taken it as a symbol that time was always on my Grandma’s side.

Sometimes I wonder how was my Grandma so successful at being a Grandma. I think the answer is she always made time for herself and for others. In my home, anytime a pamper needed to be changed, a tear wiped, or a warm smile offered she was there.

My Grandma lived with me, my parents, and my two sisters for nearly two decades. Growing up I became accustomed to hearing her cassettes playing the tunes of Hindu bhajans every morning.

When I was five, I had stomachaches that only she could treat with hot black tea and sugar but really it was her comfort and understanding that helped me the most.

Food was always given with a smile, the gentle force of her hospitality, and with a tale.

Saijan baji she said would, “Help me see better” and pumpkin would “make me smarter”–it was those tales that would cast a giggle on me and my sister’s faces. We would always wonder if she really meant it or if she was just trying to get me to eat.  Nevertheless food became a way for my Grandma to teach us the lesson she would never feel full until we were.

My Grandma serving up some baji to her grand-daughters.

She reminded us even though we were girls to “take your book seriously” Her dream as a young girl to become a teacher was not exactly fulfilled but she taught me and my sisters to make the most of our education, help in the house, and be a part of Hindu culture.

My Grandma with me and my sister “Minty”

Underneath every piece of wisdom she gave us was her mark of a good person–to love yourself no matter what wrong you do and love your parents no matter how old you are.

She was born in Plantation Albion in Guyana and her roots from late parents Betty and Arron Erriah were of strength, tenacity, and passion. My Grandma was an intelligent student in Guyana but was married at the tender age of sixteen and later had six children.

At thirty my Grandma became a single mother due to the death of her husband. She was faced with the challenge of feeding six mouths and ensuring a safe roof over her children. She took on the task by becoming a rice vendor selling in the marketplace–measuring dozens of twenty gallon bags of rice each day.

After her children grew up and were acclimated, my Grandma moved to New York City in 1984. She took care of her grandchildren but never stayed confined to the home. She visited all parts of Europe, United States, and the Caribbean while encouraging other family members to come along for the ride too.

It was in this time of her life that she witnessed some wonders of the world–something very few are able to. Yet with all of her travels she still made trips back to Guyana to host annual jhandis at her home.

My Grandma was able to do all of this within her seventy-six years of life. In her words she “took her time and peeled her pine” Even in the last few months that she lived she reminded me to do just the same.

As an adult I am always in a hurry to do things, to be successful, to make sure I get a chance to try everything even if I can’t see what is at the end of the stairs. But my Grandma was able to do so much in no hurry at all and I’m sure she will rise to her final destination.

My Grandma passed away this past Monday August 6th 2012 in her own bed at home. Her hands were loosely clasped with a murti of Lord Krishna by her side.

Which Spice Girl Are You? I was Scary because I was the darkest in my class.

She twirled her pigtails in a spiral motion around her tiny fingers while summoning us to circle around her. We all anxiously awaited her proposition. She was after all the leader of our pack which we called: “The Wolves and Bloodhounds.” We were a bunch of girls on a mission to chase the boys despite their dangerous “cooties.” She examined each of our faces amidst the buzzing playground. We knew we were in for a serious statement. She took out the red lollipop from her mouth and began to announce in a commanding tone,

“Okay. So you will be Sporty Spice, you will be Posh Spice, you will be Baby Spice, you will be Scary Spice, and I will be Ginger Spice.”

 It was a declaration that meant I’d be spending the rest of the first grade as Scary Spice. I was disappointed beyond belief. Scary Spice was not my favorite member of the Spice Girls. She was totally not me. I was nice and she was…well…scary. In my first grade class the only defining Spice Girl characteristic was skin color. I was the darkest girl in the first grade. Therefore I must be Scary Spice. But I was beginning to think the “What Spice Girl Am I?” questions dug deeper than matters of skin color.

I realized I was not the only one who found identification to be important. Even in childhood we give ourselves labels to make things easier within our social groups. You can be the leader, you can be the athletic one, you can be the girly-girl, and you can be the “scary” one. Identification has become a way for both girls and women to connect with characters in pop culture.

I was a house stricken, domesticated little creature born from Indo-Guyanese parents who made sure I was spending most of my time studying. My parents always warned me about how dangerous it could be outside but not how harmful it could be inside. Pop culture, the television, and music became my outlets for adventure. I grew up trying to define which blonde-pop icon could be me. But I really had no one to judge from. I had black hair and uncharacteristic brown skin.

It was so important to me to find a girl that I could identify with in pop culture whether it was on a television show or in a music video. As I grew a little older my skin color began to play a bigger part in the way I identified myself. I never felt like any particular character belonged to me quite like some of the other white girls I grew up with. They all would rightfully claim, “I look like Britney Spears.” or “I’m going to grow up to be just like Hilary Duff.” I had no one to represent me. No one to identify with. For every brown Jasmine I had from the Disney film Aladdin, there were always twenty more new “blonde-haired” pop culture icons to compete with. I was an Indo-Guyanese without even an ethnicity box to check. And I grew up without a pop culture icon to reassure me that I could be seen as normal too.

Trinidadian Nicki Minaj inspired by Barbie’s Blonde Hair.

My frustration grew into desperation one day when I decided to ask my Mom for a Barbie doll from our native country Guyana. Guyana is a developing nation in South America. It was formerly a British imperial colony and now holds a majority of Indian and African descendants among a pot luck of other races. My ancestors were of Indian descent and I was on a mission to find an Indian Barbie who looked like me. It was hard to choose from the Barbie selections in America because my choices were often limited to the glittering blonde hair and blue-eyed Barbie and the African-American Barbie. A lot of African girls complained their Barbies were uglier than the white ones. But my Barbie wasn’t even there. I felt like my choices shouldn’t be black or white. And I figured that it would be easier finding a Barbie that looked like me in my parent’s homeland.

So when my Mom came back from her trip to Guyana, she announced “I have a Barbie for you!” I was so excited. My eyes gleamed as my Mom stretched into her bag and handed me a Barbie dressed in a regal Indian sari, bangles, and low and behold creamy white skin with artificially straight burgundy brown hair. I looked at my Mom trying to mask my confusion and disappointment with gratitude and sheer joy. Honestly, I was just happy to have a Barbie at the time. But now when I look back, she was a white doll wearing Indian clothes. The mismatched identity of the Barbie’s Indian clothing and Caucasian features striked me as odd but I shrugged it off. I didn’t understand the meaning at the time. Was it the last remnants of white oppressive imperialism “Everyone should desire to be white.” or was the Barbie Mattel Company facing the mark of a white dominated globalization? All I knew at the time was, “This will have to do. At least she’s wearing Indian clothes.”

Later on in my life after years of self-exploration, I couldn’t help but ask the age-old question: “Who am I?” It took some growing to realize that the toys, icons, and characters I once held as such fond childhood memories, were just extreme versions of an altered reality. For millions of women to identify with. Except me.

For many of the forgotten races, the in-betweens who are either bi-racial, have multiple ethnicities and cultures, and those who aren’t just simply black or white this concept of identification may cause all the trouble. As a child, I didn’t understand why I was being left out of pop culture. But the fact that many girls feel like they aren’t represented goes to show how artificial and unreal the world of pop culture is.

Who said we need to identify ourselves with something as artificial as a plastic Barbie, a member of a girl-band, or a character from pop culture? Sure it would be nice to fight against the odds of white superiority and the suffocating “Are you black or are you white concept?” And in the future it would be nice to clean-up the hyper-reality of pop culture. But for now, to all of those little girls looking for an icon, toy, or character to identify with … this process can be a miserable, depressing, and lonely existence. I can testify to it. I sought someone to identify with and was left in the dust of pop-culture’s artificial void for nineteen years.

Good Vs. Evil: A Battle For The A Train

It is afternoon time at one of the most congested Subway Stations in NYC. Fulton Street. Transfers to the J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5, C, and A trains.

The large army of Manhattan bound people move in a fast pace. It seems like their destination is the only thing on their minds. Following the swift, precise motions of the crowd, I make my way down three levels of stairs towards the train. Finally my last transfer. It feels like I’m almost home.

As I meet the last stairwell a loud “Whooshhh” noise echoes behind me. There it is, the star, the A train gleaming in rusty silver. The crowd rushes down the last flight of stairs. A few people look on dejectedly as they have surrendered the fight to reach the train. I launch off the stairs and begin a full sprint to the train’s nearest door along with a few others close behind me.

Victory! I made it! I am the first person waiting in front of the nearest door with a bunch of people behind me ready to take my place.

I watch relieved and happy as the doors open for my entrance. A large crowd of passengers empty out of the train car. As I wait, I start to feel a strong force on my back. A few people shove me forward and walk in the spaces passengers have left while exiting out.

A good versus evil face-off between The Lion King’s honorable king Mufasa (right) and the vicious Scar (left).

It seems like patiently waiting for passengers to exit is not the easiest way to handle getting on a packed train. But I chose not to force through the crowd of exiting passengers like everyone else.

As the final set of passengers empty out of the car a woman, about thirty years old, rolls a hefty navy blue stroller, and tugs her daughter, about four years old, behind her. I loom over in front of the door realizing more than ever that I deserve a spot on this train.

The woman loudly babbles in Spanish as I step onto the train. She pushes forth with her stroller. I now realize I am standing in front of her daughter who is stuck in the train congested with new passengers.

Without a moment’s hesitation she yells, “How dare you step in front of ma daughta…How would you like it if I blocked you! You people are so obnoxious!”

It takes me a few seconds to become conscious that those words are for me. The blood rushes to the tip of my ears and my heart feels like it is about to jump out so she can step on it. I feel so horrible. Like an insensitive, obnoxious New Yorker that has no regard for children or their mothers.

The woman continues to call me names I cannot recall. She stays between the doors so she can amply shame me in front of the entire subway station. In a tiny split second, I was finally able to step into the train but right then an African-American man, about 6 feet tall, wearing long dreads and a black quilted bubble jacket, walks straight in front of me.

I thought he was just late in heading out of the train, but then I realize he is aiming in my direction.

I can’t get on the train. His body is pushing me back. My face is trapped in his black jacket. My eyes are buried in complete darkness. He grabs my shoulders and pushes me saying, “This is how it feels to be pushed Bitch.” The woman looks at me one last time and says, “Now she knows how it feels.” Less than a minute later, the woman rushes out of the departing train.

I finally enter the train. No one defends me. No one says a word. The doors close and I am on my way home.

Part of becoming a New Yorker means developing a consciousness about when is the right time to be pushy. There are a different set of rules in the concrete jungle. The law of the subway seems to be waiting to enter the train once all passengers have exited out. However in congested times, force seems to be the method in use by the majority. I patiently waited. And human nature lashed out on me.

So majority does rule.

But does that mean we should push everyone just because we all want to go home?

Yes and No. In this situation, the individual conscience is off. There are only two trains of thought.The passengers thinking “I need to get off. Now.” And the passengers boarding thinking, “I need to get on. Now.” And only one monster can win. Any individual caught acting out will be punished. Perhaps that was me.

Cultural Sari Meets Professional Suit

Just weeks ago a friend told me she was worried the henna on her hands might not wash off in time for her job interview. She didn’t want the employer to think of her as lacking professionalism. I understood her dilemma. But there was a lingering question in my mind: does one have to hide culture to look professional?

Indra Nooyi, the Indian born Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Incorporated, is a prime example of how culture can be an integral part to a human being and why we should consider it a part of promoting ourselves. Her “mantra for success” is rather different than the standard suit-and-tie professional outlook. According to the blog “Inspire Minds” from WordPress.com, the PepsiCo president states, an important attribute to success is to “be yourself”. According to “Inspire Minds,” Nooyi once bought a suit to wear for a summer job interview and felt that the suit was not only ill-fitting and too “country bumpkin” but  also covered her true self. During the next interview she was advised by a career counselor, “If they can’t accept you in a sari, it’s their loss, not yours.” Nooyi wore her sari and not only received the job, but continued to wear her cultural garments to work. She stated, “Never hide what makes you.”

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, the Indian-born Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PepsiCo Incorporated

Indra Nooyi had a direct connection with her Indian wear. But for those of us who immigrated from all over the world, we often rely on certain places to help us practice culture. When you walk down Liberty Avenue, what do you see? Over time Liberty Avenue has developed into the hub of the community. Stores filled with cultural garments are in place and customers, not only of Indian and Indo-Caribbean descent, but of all races, are often referred to find cultural items there.

Twenty-two years ago Pakistani Ghulam Awan opened East West Fashion, the first store on Liberty Avenue that sold traditional Indian wear. He stated, “I came for the American dream. Although we’ve come across a little problems.” He said with a chuckle, “It looks like the dream has finished.” Awan told me the demand for traditional clothing has lessened due to the current economic state. Today he imports traditional wear from all parts of India. He told me, “Every week there’s a new style.” Awan explained to me business gets busy during the summertime and holidays like Diwali and Navratri.

Ghulam Awan, owner of the East West Fashion wholesale and retail store, located at 121-12 Liberty Avenue Queens, New York

Ghulam Awan, like many other pioneers of the Indian clothing business, saw the need for selling cultural items. Indian clothing is desired by many races. As I entered each Indian garment store on Liberty Avenue, I noticed African-American and Hispanic-Latino customers among the Indo-Caribbean and Indians. Like many of us, Awan desired the American dream. But in addition he has provided a service to the community.

Culture can be seen in societies across the world. Today cultural items are spread and mixed throughout the globe. Indian cultural items are often used in Western fashion. Many of us are familiar with the “bindi” or small dot on the forehead that many women wear as a religious or marital symbol. The Western culture adopted the symbol and it became a fashion trend. In the 1990s, Western Pop singer, Gwen Stefani and in the 1980s, celebrity icon, Madonna, wore these bindis. Cultures often borrow, share, and fuse ideas together when they come in contact. It’s important to note that if the Western culture can appropriate Indian symbols, we shouldn’t be worried that cultural garments may indicate a lack of professionalism.

Ghulam Awan so correctly named his business, “East West Fashion.” It references the meeting of the East and West. We come across obstacles when we try to succeed in a different environment and adapt to the new situations. But we continue to keep our culture alive because it is integral to who we are. Culture can be expressed through traditions, songs, dances, values, and most significantly, our outward appearance. We shouldn’t be afraid of henna on our hands or a sari on our body if it is what we feel best represents who we are.  The codes of professionalism are rigid, but so too is the commitment we have to ourselves. Like Indra Nooyi stated, “Never hide what makes you.”

 (Article originally published in The West Indian Newspaper April 16, 2011)

The Sleeping Gypsy: A painting before its time.

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau

It was even stronger than the adrenaline rush I received from shopping. Like a little kid in a candy store… I got lost in the maze of paintings and exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art. I was collecting profound images and storing them in my brain. I tried to visually memorize each detail, nuance, and hidden meaning. I wanted to capture the art and keep it.

The Museum of Modern Art, located at 11 West 53 Street in Manhattan, New York, houses numerous works of art that deliver the perspectives of innovative, sometimes even revolutionary artists.Tourists from all around the world visit MOMA to view the work of noted artists. People seek art and purchase it not only to acknowledge its beauty, but also its purpose. Art can convey many meanings. The use of art can also be extremely powerful in the development of cultures around the world. It can be a unifying factor in the bridge between various cultures.

As I walked through the gallery of paintings and sculptures from infamous artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh, I noticed one particular painting that gave me the feeling of love at first sight. It was the 1897 painting called The Sleeping Gypsy by French painter, Henri Rousseau. The work of art was vivid, calm, and serene. It depicted a lion standing above a gypsy sleeping in a desert against the night sky.

The image’s composition and strong use of color glued my eyes to the canvas as I examined the gypsy’s cultural colorful frock. Right beside her laid a jar and a mandolin (an Italian stringed instrument). Rousseau deliberately used various cultural items to portray a meaning. But exactly what meaning was the artist trying to deliver? I stood in front of the painting and began to ponder.

A letter of Rousseau explains his subject in further detail, “A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic. The scene is set in a completely arid desert. The gypsy is dressed in oriental costume.”

Henri Rousseau was an artist before his time. He was on to a new idea of integrating and mixing cultural items to create a universal meaning. In The Sleeping Gypsy, he portrays an African gypsy in a desert wearing an Oriental costume. She lies beside an Italian stringed instrument and jar of water. These items each have significant importance to the cultures in which they belong. The Oriental frock and mandolin are all customary to their respective Asian and Italian cultures. However, Rousseau decides to mix them all together in his own painting.

The image of the gypsy as she is sleeping under the lion can be interpreted in multiple ways. As I pondered, I began to draw many ideas from the painting. Perhaps the lion is just a dangerous, powerful animal misunderstood without any intention of destroying the gypsy but simply loving her. Maybe the lion is curious about her culture and her vulnerability.  Perhaps the gypsy represents the mother of all cultures and minorities and the lion represents the dominant rulers of society. Perhaps the gypsy’s susceptibility and dormancy as she is sleeping shows the control society has over her. Maybe the gypsy represents each and every one of us sleeping in the night, not knowing what is to come and what is to fear. It is quite possible that the image shows how little control we may have at times in our lives. Perhaps the painting shows we are always prey to the powerful.

The big idea here is that many meanings and symbols can be drawn from a single work of art. Rousseau used his own interpretation of various cultures to create an image quite universal to all. He placed cultural ideas, images, and items into a modern painting showing the unity of the cultures and the vulnerability of all human beings regardless of their differences. The Sleeping Gypsy is a true standout piece and sets a standard for its kind.

There is an ethical, responsible way to mix and use cultures other than your own to create a universal message communicating values shared with people

across the world.  The artistic movement spans all borders and does something that many other movements cannot. It can reach people on a much deeper level, say what words cannot express, and demonstrate the deepness of the human mind.

Art is said to imitate life and nature. Art need not always be in a museum. Art starts with culture, people, and a set of beliefs or values.  Tom Wolfe once said, “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.”