In Episode 7, I speak to Raheem about how the matriarchs in his family have inspired his work as a professional dancer and choreographer and the significance of the 3 distinct pieces of gold jewellery that he shares with his maternal grandmother.
We talk about the strength and resilience embedded in the way he navigates through life that has been instilled in him from his female ancestors which shone through in this conversation.
"I grew up in a very sort of heavy matriarchal and maternal family, the women in my family, as I said like countless times, were my biggest inspirations, and they were the women that really guided me through everything that I done and who I am today as they were the people that I spent all my time with and kind of patented myself after my maternal grandmother."
We then go on to talk about feminine resilience in the South Asian Diaspora;
"Being a woman of colour is already a struggle, like being a person of colour is a struggle, being a queer woman or queer person of colour, it's a struggle. So my grandmother knew that. And my grandmother has been through so many hardships. But you'll never see her broken, they always have it together."
We then talk about how the jewellery pieces he shares with Grandmother made him feel:
"I was never around when any of these were bought but whenever I wear them, I know their stories. I can almost imagine being, on the sideline watching my grandmother get married receiving this in a box in those red velvet boxes, and her putting them on for the first time and you know what I really enjoy is the is the weight of jewellery. The physical weight of something being a reminder that it's there. I am still blessed to have both sets of grandparents with me, but I know that obviously one day, when they're not here, that weight that I feel now will be heavier, the day that she's not there sitting next to me wearing them."
A point Raheem made that really stuck with me is the transportive nature of Gold jewellery pieces:
"Every single time I look at these pieces, I think of a different event. I think of a different time I think of, whether it be good or bad, I think of all these times that we've done loads of things and been to loads of places and all the events where I've seen my grandmother wear these pieces and I've worn them too. For example; I recently wore them for my Vatika campaign in which I was wearing these three pieces."
"you're living, not only your reality but previous realities. The reality of these jewels, these pieces are taking you to places you've never been. When I wear these pieces at the next wedding I go to. I know these belong here; it's like a sense of belonging, the next time that we go somewhere, the next time that we go to a special event, I feel like I'm bringing these jewellery pieces back to where they need to be seen, and this is where they have a good time."
We also touch on the significance of gold adornment for our male ancestors who wore heavy gold chains and gold rings to express themselves, it's so important to mention here that the tradition of gold jewellery within the South Asian Diaspora was by no means exclusive to women as Raheem goes on to say;
"... even the men had the adornment. So when we now look at these big rings, I know that in the hip hop culture pinky rings were a big thing. Our Grandfathers' already had their pinky Rings, and those heavy gold chains. So to see it in other contexts and other cultures it's funny isn't because we were already doing it before it became cool."
Raheem them goes on to reflect on the timelessness of these pieces and how our generation bringing them out of lockers/safes to wear them is like an act of reclamation;
" These pieces are timeless. And I think that's important in terms of look as well they're timeless can style them in any way, and now it's almost like reclaiming that history and reclaiming that sense of style within them."
There is so much that I learnt from personally speaking to Raheem in episode 7, so many 'aha!' moments to add to my research into these Gold Jewellery stories.
Raheem's gold jewellery pieces are his physical link to his grandmother and mother, who he has such a profound bond with; but the real shine weaved into the chains and bangle is their shared strength, resilience and confidence.