Features

Chutney Mag

Culture, art and equality with Osman Bari

In a conversation with Osman Bari, founder and editor of Chutney Magazine, we unpacked the magazine and its diverse contents. Chutney Mag is a Toronto-based 3 section magazine acting as a platform for South Asian communities. It is structured after its namesake in 3 different sections — ‘chop, mix, and preserve’ which mirror the steps to making actual chutney, and includes carefully curated art to accompany each editorial piece. An architecture major at the University of Waterloo, Osman found his calling in graphic design. He took a semester off from his corporate office job and took to working on Chutney Magazine. Editing, illustrating and publishing the magazine by himself, Osman says that the first issue of Chutney Magazine was a success with all 75 copies selling out. The second issue is set to hit the market in June 2021. 

Maheep: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Osman: My name is Osman Bari. I was born in Pakistan, and I grew up in the Middle East. I moved to Canada with my family about 11 years ago. I went to the University of Waterloo where I studied architecture. I just graduated last year. I’m currently working as a freelance graphic designer and a writer.

Maheep: So what IS Chutney Magazine? 

Osman: Chutney is a magazine that I started back in 2019. The magazine is structured around 3 different sections ‘chop, mix, and preserve’ which mirror the steps to making actual chutney. The first section is ‘chop’ which consists of stories by our volunteers that challenge conventions and stereotypes. The second section is ‘mix’ which includes stories about cultures influencing each other and blending intersectionality. The final section is ‘preserve’ which is about preserving old stories while incorporating the evolution of history with new traditions. In the first issue, each section had 3 stories but I am grateful for the increase in the number of contributors who are making it possible for the second issue to have 5 stories in each section.

 

 

Maheep: What inspired you to start working on this magazine? 

Osman: The aim of the magazine is to provide a platform for people from marginalized backgrounds to share their personal narratives and stories on their own terms. I started the magazine out of frustration with mainstream media and how they were depicting various marginalized communities. I was affected by this personally as a Muslim. On a global scale, the muslim community is either vilified or portrayed as these agents of terror and we are just totally misrepresented. It was actually the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019 that really prompted me to start the magazine. I needed a medium to invest my energy and my frustration into productively. I also knew other people around me felt the same way so I thought it would be an interesting way to get people together and contribute to this publication.

 

Maheep: That’s great. I’m glad you found yourself a constructive platform and thanks for sharing what inspired you. The name of your magazine is very interesting, and I have heard that phrase a lot in my own south asian family,  so I can relate! What’s the story there?

Osman: It was inspired by a phrase that my mother always says to me in Urdu, “meri dimaag ki chutney mat banao,” which translates to “do not make chutney with my brain.” Obviously she would say that when I was annoying her, but I was inspired by the fact that chutney, being food from South Asia, holds a place in our language and culture. It’s not just a food item to eat with samosa —it has a definite presence, it represents something on a larger scale. I was also inspired by how it became a colonized food. The British colonized India and took to many cultural components and now chutney is also eaten by people across the world, yet it is still a distinctive food item associated with South Asia. I thought that was a nice name to represent the vibe and the stories that I wanted to share in the magazine. It is also a fun name to keep the theme of the magazine light even if the stories in it get a little heavy at times.

 

Maheep: Right. What I interpreted when I read the name was that it binds all the South Asian countries together as well. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, all have common cultural aspects, especially with food, that tend to overlap. 

Osman: Yeah, definitely. It represents the entire community and not just one of the countries.

Maheep: So you’re responsible for the art and the design? I loved the retro vibe you went for — what was your inspiration? 

Osman: The retro look comes from the printing process — the magazine is risograph printed. Risograph is a process which involves a maximum of two ink drums being printed at the same time. The process entails soy based inks being overlaid on top of one another, ultimately, when the final image comes together, you do get this retro vibe because the inks are slightly misaligned as the resolution is not extremely sharp. It prints the images in very fine dots — that’s where the retro vibe came from, but it also happens to be a personal preference. I wanted to package the whole magazine in that colourful aesthetic.

 

Maheep: That’s awesome! What do you envision the future for your magazine to be?

Osman: I think it would just be great if it could reach more people. I would love it if more people from marginalized communities would like to get involved and contribute stories. Of course I get many contributions from South Asian immigrants but I think I want to see the magazine capture stories from minority groups across the world. That is more important to me than having an established and “proper” magazine. If the magazine resonated with more people, I would be very happy about that.

 

If you wish to get your hands on this publication, keep an eye out on the magazine’s website for the drop of issue 2. While it is Toronto-based, Chutney Mag can be shipped to other parts of the world. Osman added that he is always open to feedback, including readers’ responses to the work, how they feel the magazine can be improved, and of course, any stories that particularly resonated with you.

 

Contribute to Chutney Mag at https://chutneymag.com/submissions

 

Normie Corp

online 4 now...irl soon?

The raddest, hottest, most sincere fosterers of virtual “safe spaces” you ever did see, Normie Corporation’s Haina, Pao and Vinson are equal parts aesthetic wet dream and raging talent. They each bring forth a range of skills that come together to create online dance parties with a uniquely welcoming and inclusive environment. Reminiscent of the pandemic-born digital event eminence that is “Club Quarantine,” Normie Corp is existing in a similar vein, platforming loads of local QTBIPOC performers at every event. Although a sentiment surrounding Zoom events is that they are a fleeting bandaid fix to our COVID-induced party deficit, Normie Corp (respectfully) does not care. They are exuberantly making due and making parties happen for as long as we aren’t allowed to dance, breathe and sweat in enclosed spaces. As long as they have a wifi connection, and as long as they have cute fits with nowhere but Zoom to flaunt them. They are new and growing, but already beloved in our local queer and BIPOC community. We discussed recent collaborations that sent new followers flocking to their platform, the neoteric benefits of virtual dance parties, as well as plans for how Normie Corp may change shape in the unpredictable  —  albeit, promising — future. Normie Corporation has shown that beautiful, vibrant, community-nurturing, low-barrier events are more than just possible, they are too valuable not to attempt to create. They said themselves that they “have not been gatekept by anyone or anything” in their virtual endeavours — the hope is that attendees feel the same way. Welcome without limitation. The pandemic has pulled the curtain on arbitrarily constructed barriers and virtual dance party initiatives like Normie Corp are spotlighting that in their own right. Needless to say, Normie Corp is changing how people party 4ever, and post-pandemic, it’s not goodbye, it’s c u l8r…irl. <3

 

Maya: Your very first Instagram post aptly stated that “normie corporation™®© was born out of ~reminiscing~ the days and nights of dancing with friends.” How did you come to form this plan for virtual dance parties? 

Normie Corp: It was pretty much the only viable option for us at the time! We had our first meeting at Wreck Beach and at the core of it was this longing to put on a cute outfit and dance with our friends.  We chatted excitedly about hosting events after the pandemic was over, whenever that would be. Throughout the meeting, we all agreed that online parties were the new normal and it would be a good practice simulation for event coordination. Shortly after our first meeting, events irl were shut down and we decided that it was now or never.

 

M: Your individual exec photos and bios on the Normie Corp IG are amazing, iconic, so hot and so wonderful — but they don’t happen to mention the intricacies of how you all know each other. What’s the backstory? Additionally, what talents and skills are you individually bringing to Normie Corp? 

NC: Honestly, we met through partying. This is something that we are extremely passionate about and we hope it shows LOL. We saw our skills as an opportunity to start a new project — Haina is a fashion savant and a wizard with photoshop, [she] is our Executive Manager of Aesthetics; Pao does event management and audio tech at her day job, so she’s our Executive Manager of Technology; Vinson handles communications and manages talent so he became the Dutchess of Human Resources. Even though we all “specialize,” we have made a concerted effort to learn each other’s skill sets so we can become more well-rounded employees for Normie Corporation.

 

M: It’s clear that the heart of Normie Corp’s efforts is by marginalized folk and for fellow marginalized folk (inclusive to everyone, of course.) Stemming from that, do you think the virtual space has anything unique or special to offer to those of marginalized identities that in-person spaces do not?

NC: Absolutely. Events have become more accessible than ever. Hosting events online has been a blessing because we have not been gatekept by anyone or anything. In the spirit of low barriers, our events include Jam Sessions, where performers of any skill level can come and live their DJ fantasy. They don’t even need DJ gear —some have made mixes on free apps like Traktor, or played their curated playlists through their music streaming services. We have been so touched by some of the results as performers put a lot into their sets. I think now is a good time to mention that all of the members of Normie Corp are queer people of colour, and we are thankful to have a platform where we can serve our communities. Since conception, we have featured 42 unique performers, most of whom are QTBIPOC.

M: Evidently you’ve been making the very most of the platform, however, Zoom parties and digital events are notoriously either loved or hated. Given that, did you have any nerves or hesitancy in launching Normie Corporation? If so, in what regard?

NC: We were nervous, but we saw it as an opportunity to start a project without a lot of risk. The worst thing that could happen is that our zoom party…flops. That’s a lot easier to swallow than renting an expensive space in Vancouver with no experience in event coordination. If people are growing tired of us, or online events in general, we pretend to not see it. We still have cute outfits and an internet connection, so we’re gonna keep going!!!

 

M: You’ve managed to curate party environments time and time again that simply do not miss — the people love your lineups. Who have all of your biggest creative or musical influences been? 

NC: I think an obvious inspiration is Club Quarantine. They showed us how engaging online parties can be. Rice Cake was the first in the city to curate a party by, and for, queer Asian people. That is actually where Haina and Vinson met. We all have very fond memories of turning up at Level Up, Vancouver’s only queer rap and hip hop dance party. As for creative and musical influences: Haina is inspired by Boiler Room, Park Hye Ji, Peggy Gou, Yaeji, to name a few. Pao channels raves in the Mexican jungles (she means Tulum but she doesn’t want to say Tulum), where techno and house thump deep into the night. And Vinson looks up to the women in pop music.

 

M: If you could collaborate with anybody ever, who would it be? Multiple answers are very much welcome.

NC: We recently collaborated with Rice Cake for Lunar New Year and showcased some of Vancouver’s hottest Asian talents. We are currently working with Kinsey, a Black-led collective based in Brooklyn that showcases the talents of emerging QTBIPOC artists. We are obviously inspired by local collectives Dame Vinyl and NuZi collective — both of which are lead by iconic women. We’re excited at the prospects of working with collectives from all over the world. The beauty of throwing online events is that the biggest barrier is time zones. It would also be amazing to be featured by the pioneers of online clubbing, Club Quarantine. As for individual artists — Normie Corp has been really into Shygirl, Ms. Keta, SOPHIE, Sega Bodega, Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, Quay Dash, Tierra Whack, Prado, Danny L Harle, Honey Dijon, & A.G. Cook…to name a few!

 

M: Love love love to hear you’ve been connecting with other dope (& local) collectives! Still, Vancouver’s art scene can sometimes feel quite disconnected, intimidating and exclusionary. Normie Corp has played a large part in ameliorating the issues, but what is your take on Vancouver’s arts community as it stands?

NC: First of all, thank you for teaching us a new word. Ameliorating. That’s hot. Also, thank you for noticing that Normie Corp is putting in the work to be as inclusive as possible. As queer people of colour, we have been in spaces that seemed unwelcoming and sometimes hostile. We will continue using this platform responsibly to ensure that guests feel safe and welcome. This isn’t just directed at local venues and communities, but there’s been an increased emphasis on diversity and representation. While these discussions are great, it means little unless the minorities that they want to represent their brands are compensated fairly and in positions of power. Like, it’s nice seeing QTBIPOC be the face of ad campaigns but we want to see them RUNNING SHIT.

 

M: What is your favourite thing that has come from the creation of Normie Corp? It can be a moment, a feeling, anything! 

Haina: We’ve had the pleasure of connecting with really talented artists from all over the world!

Pao: The three of us have become a lot closer from working together and we are mutually supportive of our DJ journeys —all of us started at the beginning of the pandemic.

Vinson: In general, it has been so rewarding to bring the community together when we are required to be apart. In a way, I think throwing dance parties kinda makes you a public servant. It’s been weird times and we’re thankful to see all of you dancing and having fun at our events. It really makes working for free worth it LOL

 

M: Speaking of “irl,” with the recent announcement that life may very likely be returning to the old “normal” this fall, do you imagine Normie Corp will shift direction or change form? Or alternatively, do you plan to continue embracing the digital form as it is, and keep leaning into the concept of futurism?

NC: Oh, Normie Corp is ready to rave in-person!!! When we first talked about hosting events, we had no idea we’d have to do it over Zoom. Even at our first meeting, where we discussed hosting our first online event, we were already thinking about outfits and decorations for the first party in real life. When we go back to “normal”, whatever that may be, we’ll adopt a hybrid model and stream our events, as we still want to make it as accessible as possible.

 

M: In the nearer and less ~speculatory far future~, what are your next plans for people to look forward to? Upcoming events, announcements? Fill the people in!

NC: THANKS FOR ASKING! We are throwing a silly little music festival on April 20th at 7PM. There will be 10 DJs living their outdoor music festival fantasy at FVDED With The Pod. Hope you can UNCE UNCE with us! We are also going to host an event on May 1st, we just haven’t started planning yet, but please, pencil it into your Blackberry — we’d love to see you there.

 

You heard it here first! Normie Corporation has no intention of dying down and they have events upcoming. Be there!!! To stay in the loop, Instagram is the best spot to catch their updates, @normiecorp.