Browntown: Home Is Where the Bazaar Is

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Negine Jasmine: In the heart of Artesia lives little India, which is located in southeast Los Angeles. The first time I visited the streets of Artesia was when I was eight years old, and even though I’m Afghan I’ve been enamored with the city ever since as it still provides a sense of familiarity. It buzzes with savory aromas from grocery stores, warm colors from dress shops and classic Bollywood tunes from film stores. My mom and I make a trip there every so often, and indulge ourselves with mouthwatering dosa and creamy pistachio Kulfi—each time providing a more cosmic and glorious experience than the last. This is why I wanted to photograph Suraiya here, and I’m so glad that I did—as I had no idea that her experience was going to be as profound as it was. I couldn’t help but feel a tad bit disheartened by the end of the shoot, Suraiya was exuding with love and excitement for discovering a place that made her feel at home—which exists only an hour drive away from her (and that is so wonderful). All the while, I’m still searching for a little Afghanistan that is as vibrant as Artesia is. Although, Maiwand Market in San Fran is pretty cool and I’m grateful towards it for always providing my family with a year supply of toot and jalgoza.

Photographed by Negine Jasmine

Suraiya Ali: I’m always running home. I don’t care to create my own—my mother and father, their mothers and fathers, their mothers and fathers—they created home. It is not a place, it is not a romanticized village or far away town. It is a feeling. Home is ease. It is soft white flower petals and morning light streaming on top a light blue Persian rug. Home is my mother ironing my chiffon dupatta on a Friday afternoon, while my father sits in our break room and meditates to Aziz Mian. Home is the streets of Dallas, Texas and the many suburbs that they percolate through. It feels a certain way, I don’t have the words to describe it because words of that caliber do not exist. It is not nostalgia, it is prayer. I am devoted to the feeling of home, I pray on that feeling. My heart ignites in passion to that feeling. It exists in the cramped aisles of Indo-Pak grocers and jewelry shops that will not sell you a thing under 22-carat gold. The ubiquity of this feeling breeds comfort in me, that in towns all across the United States, such pockets exist, so that I may run there for a moment. It is Richardson, Texas or Artesia, California. It is Devon Street in Chicago, it is so many more streets and cities. Home is hot dosa that burns my tongue. It is two pounds of ladoo and ras malai nestled in a black plastic bag next to new matte red bangles. I am running to you always, running for you always. Forever wondering if I created you, or if you, in your mercy, created me.

Photographed by Negine Jasmine

Photographer: Negine Jasmine
Model: Suraiya Ali
Location: Artesia, CA

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