On the penultimate page of Juice there is a quote from the journalist and broadcaster Kieran Yates: “We’ve never really been split, never been cut in half, we’ve just been silent about how we’ve been empowered because we haven’t always felt it, have been too busy being good immigrants, not making a fuss, and quieting down when people felt uncomfortable.” A magazine about being South Asian, Juice is a loud, joyful assertion of that power. Over Zoom, art director Raeesah Patel talked to us about the “brown renaissance”, the dangers of assimilation, and why the issue is designed to look like a Rubicon Mango juice.
You use the term “brown renaissance”. How does the “brown renaissance” inform the contents of juice?
The Renaissance is remembered as an entirely European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” — but when re-examined by many activists, creatives and scholars of colour through a postcolonial lens, it is clear that the Renaissance was actually part of a larger global pattern of thought. For us, “brown renaissance” is a way of reimagining the current South Asian narrative: we want to inspire our community to tell our own stories in our own words.
In the ‘About Juice’ page of the magazine, you take issue with the idea of assimilation, pointing out the paradox that to adopt a “‘western’ cultural identity” is “commonly seen as a marker of progress for multicultural Britain”.
Yes, as realised by many South Asian communities and later coined in Nikesh Shukla’s book, The Good Immigrant (2016), the good immigrant must be a perfect citizen, grateful. The first generation of immigrants moved from South Asian countries and their traditions were seen as uncivilised; uneducated; unrefined. If you are South Asian and your English isn’t perfect you are seen as un-British, even if you’ve lived here most of your life and contributed to the economy. You have to assimilate — cover up everything that makes you South Asian — or you aren’t being good enough.
What in your own upbringing made you want to do a magazine like this?
I was born in Blackburn, Lancashire and I still live here with my family. I felt a lot of insecurity about my skin colour, about the fact that my family did things differently, and at the same time I loved my culture: I’m obsessed with Bollywood movies and I find such strength in my traditions. Blackburn has a big brown community, so although many young South Asians feel conflicted about sharing their culture and identity at school, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to some friends who grew up in other parts of the country. But I wish I’d had someone to say to me it’s ok: your family cooks differently and dresses differently but there’s beauty in that.
Why is juice so wonderfully pink?
A lot of the imagery that people associate with South Asia is based on stereotypes. There are a few traditional prints that get repeated over and over again and I find that frustrating. I wanted to take one thing I love about my culture — the way it bursts with colour — and reinterpret it in a surprising way. It was important to me to make something that didn’t look like what people would expect a South Asian magazine to look like.
And finally: why is the magazine called Juice? We love the name!
Evelyn Miller, our creative director, came up with that name. In a lot of South Asian households Rubicon is a staple and is available at almost every local corner shop — the corner shop is an important space for South Asian communities. I love Rubicon Mango because the mango season back home in India is such an event. So our initial branding was inspired by Rubicon Mango juice: really fluid and colourful.