"Go easy on yourself. From a young age, we’re bombarded with messages about who we’re supposed to be. And I want to remind people that they’re exactly who they’re supposed to be. Often in our culture, we’re not encouraged to follow our passions or to speak up for ourselves. But we can and we should."-Jag Nagra, Visual Artist.
Jag Nagra is a visual artist. She is using her gift of art to spearhead community development initiatives, to fight for womens' rights and to end the stigma against LGBTQ+ people within the South Asian community. As a freelancer, she has worked with high-profile clients such as Tim Hortons, Microsoft and Tumblr.
Last year, Nagra collaborated with the Vancouver Canucks on two occasions; once to create an icon for their Vaisakhi celebration game, and later to design limited-edition warmup jerseys that gained international recognition. She was also the 2021 feature artist for Indian Summer Festival.
She is currently serving as the Creative Director of the Punjabi Market Collective, a non-profit working to revitalize Vancouver’s historic Punjabi Market.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman isn’t easy. I always very much felt like an outsider…and still do to this day in many ways. To me, being a woman means strength and resiliency. And like we tell our daughter: we can do anything.
What has been your biggest achievement in 2021?
My biggest achievement in 2021 was that I got to create artwork for the Vancouver Canucks on two occasions, most recently for their Diwali celebration game where the players wore warmup jerseys featuring my art. Being able to represent our community and our culture on such a huge stage was incredible and the outpouring of love and support I received from so many people left me speechless. Representation is so important to me. Often we’re underrepresented in the arts. If I can give one brown queer person out there hope…if they can see themselves in me and if it gives them one ounce of hope, I’m happy.
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A milestone that defines your journey?
I think ever since I began volunteering with the Punjabi Market Collective (a non-profit founded in 2020 to revitalize Vancouver’s historic Punjabi Market), my career and life began to change. I began to identify with my culture for the first time in a meaningful way and that directly impacted the kind of art I make. I began to find my voice, what I stand for, and who I am through this work.
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Were there any challenges or hurdles that you had to face to get to where you are today- especially as a woman of color?
Not only am I a woman of colour but I’m also a queer woman of colour. Those are three intersections that haven’t always made life easy. At different times in my life, I’ve fought with each of those identities trying to figure out where I belong, but ultimately I’ve come to a point where I’m happy with who I am and have finally found my voice. The fact that I can live openly and not have to hide the fact that I have a wife (who I’ve been with for 10 years) or that we have two children together is something that I never imagined. I don’t take it for granted for a second.
What’s your advice for women who wish to follow your path?
Go easy on yourself. From a young age, we’re bombarded with messages about who we’re supposed to be. And I want to remind people that they’re exactly who they’re supposed to be. Often in our culture, we’re not encouraged to follow our passions or to speak up for ourselves. But we can and we should.
Photo: A Master Media