SARA KHAN

Vancouver-based visual artist Sara Khan carefully layers the people, places and patterns from her upbringing in Pakistan into pictorial scenes with intricate, labour-intensive details. Her Suraj Kinare (The Edge of the Sun) exhibition looks at the idea of belonging—regardless of geographical boundaries—through complex watercolour paintings. In another show, Roshni Key Teh Mein (In the Fold of Light), Khan finds a balance between a number of elements, including large-scale textiles, as she examines the transformative power of motherhood.

S.K. ALI

Growing up in Montreal and Toronto surrounded by misrepresentations of her faith left S.K. Ali questioning whether being Muslim was bad. “Fortunately, the warm experiences I had in Muslim communities were a balm, enabling me to pay attention to the beauty of ‘otherness,’” says the award-winning New York Times Best Seller author. Ali’s books, like the 2017 YA novel Saints and Misfits, centre Muslim characters who don’t rely on external validation. For example, she describes Zayneb, the protagonist from her 2019 teen romance Love From A to Z, as “like Anne of Green Gables fuelled by an inner fire.”

KHANVICT

KHANVICT BY @TOG.GALLLERY

Surrey, B.C., DJ Asad Khan (a.k.a. Khanvict) produces tapestries of sound, often with sexy strings, zesty synth work and gritty baselines. While his 2021 track “Closer”—a Punjabi boli (a type of folk song) reworked into a feminist anthem addressing colourism and caste—made its way into an episode of Disney+ superhero series Ms. Marvel, it is his therapeutic 2022 remix of A. R. Rahman’s Bollywood smash “Tere Bina” and his stripped-back 2023 rendition of Malkit Singh’s nostalgia trip “Jind Mahi” that has the South Asian diaspora swooning.

FAAIZA RAMJI

 

FIELD NOTES BY SARA KHAN

The ritual of chai has a special place in South Asian hearts—steeped in history and tradition, it’s the ultimate display of affection. For Field Notes distillery’s second spirit release, Jaya Chai, founder Faaiza Ramji balances her South Asian and Prairie roots with how she likes to host at home in Edmonton: with a cocktail. “Jaya is a chai liqueur made from distilled Canadian oats, Assam tea and my family’s spice combination of green cardamom, clove and cinnamon,” she says. Try this ready-to-pour tipple in a riff on an old-fashioned or an espresso martini or on its own over ice.

MINAHIL BUKHARI

 

MEEMWARE BY MINAHIL BUKHARI

“Our focus is on amplifying marginalized perspectives through uniquely designed pieces,” says Meemware co-creator Minahil Bukhari. The brand offers a touch of what the Vancouverite calls “alternative luxury” in the form of things like funky tumblers, homewares and a stunning collection of sculptural jewellery. Inspired by the Japanese kurinuki (to hollow) pottery technique, the earrings are pieces of wearable art that are made of soft-cured polymer clay and feature raw, uneven textures.

MUSTAFA AHMED

MUSTAFA AHMED BY DEXTER NAVY

Mustafa Ahmed has always sought refuge in poetry. (He used to be known as “Mustafa the poet.”) Now, he has added musician and filmmaker to his resumé. With his 2021 debut album, When Smoke Rises, the Canadian-Sudanese folk singer delivered achingly beautiful lyrics to eulogize victims of gun violence from the Regent Park housing project he grew up in in Toronto. Having clocked up songwriting credits with The Weeknd (for “Attention”) and Camila Cabello (“All These Years”), the 27-year-old is now grappling with his faith in “Name of God,” the first track from his upcoming second album, which pays tribute to his late brother and laments the violence that still haunts him.

SALIMA AND SAMARA VISRAM

From a minimalist but deep-pocketed backpack made from recovered ocean plastic to an apple-leather tote bag crafted with the pulpy by-product from the juicing industry, fashion brand Samara’s planet-conscious bags are next-level dreamy. Best of all, part of the proceeds from every product sold go to founders Salima and Samara Visram’s non-profit, Soular. The Toronto-based sisters, who are originally from Kenya, provide innovative solar-powered backpacks to kids in East Africa; the bags double as night lights so students can do their homework safely at sundown without relying on carcinogenic kerosene.

ERUM SHEIKH

HERBAL HAIR CARE

Vancouver’s Herbal (styled “[her]bal”) Hair Care was launched in 2020 by hairstylist Erum Sheikh as a loving ode to her ammi (mother), their traditions and their shared love of natural remedies. Featuring soothing lavender, conditioning gotu kola (an Ayurvedic herb in the parsley family) and vitamin-rich amla (Indian gooseberry), the brand’s Nourishing Oil leaves hair looking shiny and healthy. A portion of sales supports women and children seeking safety from violence and abuse at B.C. Society of Transition Houses. “I grew up in a household where zakat, the act of giving to others, was a way of life,” says Sheikh.

AYMAN SAIFI

 

A SPICE AFFAIR

Ayman Saifi is a fourth-generation spice merchant with Palestinian roots. In 2016, he launched Montreal’s A Spice Affair with top-quality products—like lip-puckering sumac and nose-tickling Aleppo pepper—that have transformed the pantries of 2.5 million households across North America, the Middle East and Europe. Try the zippy za’atar blend—the recipe is a well-guarded family secret (and those are almost always the best kind).

MUSTAALI RAJ

Vancouver-based Mustaali Raj is the brains behind the 30 Days of Ramadan initiative. “I started the project in 2016 as a daily visual exploration of personal reflections and learnings during the holy month,” explains the graphic designer and visual artist. It has since become a creative and spiritual platform through which to foster community during Ramadan and beyond. While Volume Four (2019) examined traditional Islamic motifs and deconstructed them into simpler forms, Volume Six (2021) playfully explored fasting animals. Last year’s instalment included a brand activation with KitKat, with people being encouraged to celebrate the daily fasting break come sundown with a 30-piece Iftar Bar.

BILAL BAIG

CBC BY BILAL BAIG

When the boundary-breaking dramedy Sort Of debuted in 2021, Bilal Baig, who hails from Mississauga, Ont., became the first trans-feminine South Asian Muslim actor to lead a Canadian prime-time TV series. Since its premiere on CBC, the show has racked up several Canadian Screen Awards nominations, and it won a Peabody Award. Off-screen, Baig and co-creator Fab Filippo have nurtured meaningful representation with a mentorship program for trans and non-binary crew members. The third and final season of Sort Of may have wrapped last year, but Baig is just getting started.

SAÏD M’DAHOMA

FIG AND CARDAMOM TART SAÏD M'DAHOMA

Saïd M’Dahoma is a neuroscientist turned bona fide pastry nerd with 169,000 Instagram followers. Through easy-to-follow instructional videos and virtual master classes, the charming Calgary resident breaks down traditional French pastry into bite-size pieces. Particularly endearing is how he explores the intersectionality of his French and Comorian identities with tidbits about the vanilla beans grown in East Africa by his family or by “seasoning” his creations using spices and tropical fruits.

TARIQ AHMED

You can find one of the finest cider houses in Canada in Guelph, Ont. Founded by Tariq Ahmed, Revel is all about local and foraged fruits, funky homegrown botanicals, natural fermentations and zero residual sugar for a unique taste of place. “By including flowers, wild berries, botanicals, beeswax and spruce resin, I’m trying to show folks that a plethora of exciting species—life worth preserving—exists in their own backyards,” explains Ahmed. Strawberry-loaded Soif, tart and refreshing Field Guide and crushable Time & Place are three of our faves

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