Revolutionary Foundations in Cultural Production and Nonabyssal Praxis

Yaazhin Pillay


My work is driven by my desire to shed light on issues of class disparity and the post-colonial experience. I believe that it is my duty to use the freedoms and privileges afforded me to assist my community in South Africa and others who have survived colonial history, however I can. I believe that my experience as a South African Indian born during the turn of Apartheid to a diasporic culture, offers a potentially valuable perspective for tackling some of the issues relevant to subaltern communities and individuals. Having also immigrated to Canada, I see much overlap between issues facing marginalised communities in both the Global North and Global South. I seek to find a way to bridge and overcome the struggles that we face and our shared colonial experiences, together.

The indignities of Apartheid, imperial rulership, and colonisation colours much of my familial heritage but does not remain wholly in the past. I hope to always highlight the continuation of these realities in our contemporary moment. I place great importance on the role of subaltern cultural producers in our capacity to initiate change and feel driven to express my solidarity with comrades and friends who face the shadow of oppression today. My examination of cultural resistance and resistant praxis is in service to them. I hope that my production will guide the uninitiated to seek out, listen, and engage with the experiences of Global Southern communities. Striving for the empowerment and restoration of civil rights and freedoms through the building of cultural identity is ultimately the goal of my work.

Amandla Awethu!


I created a poster series based on the tenets of the freedom charter to make visible once more the ideological foundation upon which the South African resistance and subsequent Constitution was based. This was not aimed at highlighting the failings of the movement but rather to ask people to consider the state of our nation today relative to these formalised aspirations. It would be appropriate to say that this was a document born of the people as it was created with robust input from many grassroot organisations operating in relation to the African National Congress (which was itself in exile at the time). This therefore makes the Freedom Charter a document which accurately and holistically reflects the needs of its people. It would not be dramatic however, to say that our current government no longer meets any of the needs outlined in the charter. Without job security, stable electricity, water, housing, and safety, craft and media-based praxis become instrumental in giving agency and voice to creative producers. The value of this can be seen in the prolific output of media produced during the anti- apartheid era, most of which was produced in hand-built print shops around the country. I chose to produce these posters as prints because they are indicative of the effectiveness of techniques that reflect communal roots and that are aimed at the wide dissemination of ideas; not limited by market nor abyssal sensibilities.


In the Faces of Indenture series, I aim to demonstrate an alternative approach to exploring my colonial history. These works tap into a Global Southern practice of valorising the martyrdom and sacrifice of those who came before. In places of war, for example, the tradition of the martyr poster gives face to what a community has lost. The colonial numbers of my indentured ancestors serve as a reminder that the growth of subaltern communities are only made possible with the proactive action and courage of our predecessors.

Yaazhin Pillay

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Yaazhin Pillay has a MFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He aims to honor and advocate for the adherence to indigenous methodologies as a means of resistant action and decolonisation. As a South African Indian, Pillay examines the experience of diasporic communities and attempts to bring clarity to the lived experience of those within the Global South. His work promotes an anti-apartheid, anti-imperial, anti-Eurocentric perspective, featuring imagery from Hindu, Vedic and Buddhist philosophy. He places the continued unity of indigenous and liberated communities worldwide as a fundamental goal of his work.

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