Amna Khurshid on Culture and Creativity

Culture and Creativity: The Lived Experience For An Individualistic Diaspora

I was asked to write about how my culture impacts my creativity. It’s a complex question because my culture is fragmented––through immigration and mixed identity––and often feels so multiplex that it ceases to really exist. I navigate through my life with abstractions of memory and experience, and some artifacts––photos, artworks, books––from my past and my bloodline. I carry these carefully with me, aware of their importance and richness. I know that these things inform who I am and where I come from, but I am not defined by them––I tend to move through the world paving a path that is uniquely my own. I’d argue that for any young diaspora living in an individualistic society, this is commonplace.

Then there is the question of artistic practice. We’re often caught up in pursuing a traditionally artistic practice to express our creativity and culture, but it is my personal philosophy that our very existence stands as the most enigmatic and mysterious manifestation of creation. Where existence is creation, life should be lived through a mode of expression, without the confines of a creative career that is too restrictive, or concerned with perception, output, wealth, or status. Creativity to me is largely linked to freedom, and creation should be whatever you want it to be. It can even be nothing. A blank page in a book, or a black canvas, often speaks more to me than something feverishly compound.

Culture, on the other hand, is first ingrained, and then transformed, through a unique lived experience, especially one that may belong to an ever-evolving diaspora: homes; griefs; confusions; thrills; quests; aches; elations; visions; loves; trials; feats; expeditions––these shape an experience that unfurls the enigma of living into a riddle that extends beyond the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation or group of people. 

If all art and creative practice aims to tell some form of a narrative, experience, or story, then art in its most diluted form must be storytelling. This is the intersection where culture and creativity collide. I know that as a Kashmiri-Pakistani Canadian on the brink of a new world, my life story and mental makeup is so unique that it feels illogical not to document it. This is what I’ve tried to move toward through writing.

Amna Khurshid is an artist and writer living in Montreal, QC. 

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