WFY Today

This Outstanding Duo Celebrates The Tantalizing 90s Bollywood Girlhood

I could relate to that description as soon as I walked into the South London gallery, seeing pop-icons that had been my room’s wallpaper when I was fifteen and the basis of my Pinterest mood boards when I was twenty. The holy items that make up Kardashian and Durban’s shrine are a poster of Zac Efron from his high school musical days, an image of Kajol in a gilded frame, Bratz playing cards, a picture of Leighton Meester taken by Sofia Coppola, henna stickers, and mementos that read “I <3 London.” These items are drawn from popular culture and mementos from their diasporic girlhood. However, the almost ecstatic space the artists and their common practice created seem to be described too lightly by the word shrine.

The exhibition by Kardashian and Durban, titled I’ll Wear the Bangles From Your Hands, commemorates a year of their collaborative work and is a daydream come true in the open air. The ability of each artist’s creation to feel both intimate and globally relatable is something special. 

The London-based artists were formally introduced at an art foundation course at Kingston University, despite having grown up in comparable South London social circles. Even though Durban and Kardashian had been close pals for a long time, they now admit that although they “admired each other’s work from afar,” they weren’t truly buddies. The two didn’t come together at Kardashian’s studio until 2023, after Durban had returned from his studies in Manchester. At that point, they started working on pieces that stressed their simultaneous “coming of age,” the Indian matriarchs in their immediate vicinity, and fangirldom. Utilising an abundance of gaudy materials from the 2000s, which they amassed partly as a result of their grandmother-like hoarding habits, the artists highlight everyday and cultural events.

Repurposed 2000s memorabilia, film stills from British Punjabi filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, and glitzy pictures of Bollywood stars from the 1960s and 1970s are among the items on exhibit. They are arranged thoughtfully next to one another on whiteboards or hung on corkboards. There are occasions when they are taped on and lavishly embellished with gold pins, press-on jewels, diamonds, and Disney pendants. In reference to how each image passes through several hands before becoming its own, Kardashian reminded me, “The objects we work with are hand-me-downs.”

The artists want to convey this tacticality in all of their works. We work with items that are all about beauty and glitz, so it’s critical that the do-it-yourself element of our process contrasts with the polished original. To further stress this aspect of our work, we even print our pictures using an inkjet printer from my mother’s workplace, Durban continues.

This do-it-yourself, almost scrapbook-style method carries over from the individual pieces into the gallery’s physical area, where the artists arrange tubes of Maybelline Mascara in bright pink and green, cassette tapes with Lata Mangeshkar songs, and stacks of DVDs in one corner. In an effort to give the gallery a lived-in atmosphere, there’s even a souvenir from Singapore that used to belong to Durban’s grandmother, which is set on a bed of basmati rice on the floor.

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