The Menteur 2022 Edition

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“Tell all the truth but tell it slant—” Emily Dickinson

The Menteur Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Assistant

Fiction/Nonfiction Editors

Nicky Charles Peters

Meg Luesley

Zoé Grant Audrey Sheetz

Poetry Editors

Lola Aylmer Leah Soeiro

Film Editors

Quatoyiah Murry Bronwen Clewley

Photography Editor

Art Editor


Ashton Stuart Lyle

Louelle Loreti Jongen

Apoorva Kapur Pallas-Amenah Morgan

Cover Art


Namita Sunil

Gautami Nagari Mared Roberts

Contents Leah Soeiro


48 Leah Soeiro

Gautami Nagari


49 Bridget Reader

Natalia Armenia


50 Tugay Karakuzu

Ewan Golder


52 Eoghan Gilmore

Rhiannon Ross


56 Louelle Loreti Jongen

Phil O’Neill


57 Mehrul Bahri

Pallas-Amenah Morgan


59 Apoorva Kapur

Patrick Tanella


60 Lindsay Kupser

Janise Yntema


62 Luke Berte

Cris M. Costa


66 Jake Weaver

Louelle Loreti Jongen


68 Marta García Gamón

Ryan Bryce


70 Emily Clugston

Charlie Gilmore


74 Sonal Dugar

Megan Teesdale


75 Louelle Loreti Jongen

Louelle Loreti Jongen


76 Ashton Lyle

Apoorva Kapur


78 Emily Clugston

Julie Stensland


80 Lola Aylmer 82 Nicky Charles Peters

Sans Titre Leah Soeiro

The project was realised in the winter of 2020/21 during an isolation period in the North of England, Lancashire. I started working on the project as a response to the isolation and dependence I experienced during my two-month stay at my partner’s parents’ place. There was nothing in the family house that reminded me of myself, and who I was in it all. I took to the attic, where I found my partner’s mother’s old theatre costumes. I started to experiment with dressing up, and it soon became a place of solace. It was a way to explore and overcome loss of identity, and as a result dealt with the fluidity of identity, and the spectacle we make of it. I used self-portraiture as a way to study my own behaviour. To watch and be seen at the same time felt important in a time in which no one was looking.

Leah Soeiro

Leah Soeiro


Gautami Nagari

it has been a while and i am making us tea. the kettle is still hot i stand there, watch the steam trapped in porcelain dying to get out; words bubble in my throat. keep the lid on, clumsy you’ll spill if you let it, boil (it’ll all be) over. so i pour us tea and maybe the teabags will soak up the tension and the mess of unsaid things on the table between us. across, your hands warm the tea (it’s been a while) they’re cupping the mug, but your eyes, they hold my face, lift it and drink up.

The Yellow Bathroom Natalia Armenia

My mom has been fond of colours for as long as I can remember. She washed the walls of the living room in light green for the brightness to create more space, she dyed our kitchen pure white because she wanted the stains of her cooking to remind her that she was a good mother, she insisted the hallway fences remain untouched in honor of the previous owner’s proclivity for violet. And she painted my room pink. I was never really keen on her colour choices, I would have preferred my kitchen walls to be cleaner. I would have welcomed a darker tone in the living room so that when we watched horror movies we felt the thrill of darkness. Her bedroom was red because she said that was the colour of passion, but my father left us the year I learned how to walk and has never come back since. My mother has dated around sixty men. That is sixty more than me. I find it challenging to call my house mi hogar for it’s too big for the two of us and too empty to feel safe.

My favourite place, though, is my yellow bathroom. I am fifteen years old. That’s a dreadful age to be alive. I think about how there’s something wrong with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I start dreaming. Sometimes my dreams don’t match with what I want. Sometimes they’re spooky. Other times, it is only in my sleep that I can find my good spirits. They say that because my chromosomes are XX, I have to wear dresses. They say that because I bleed, I cannot have sports wounds. They say that because my breasts are growing every day a little more, I should be able to breastfeed in ten years. I hate my body. And I hate my pink room. When I go to school, and the teacher calls me by the name



I feel mortified. Because that’s not my name. Yet how can I explain that to my teachers, to my mother, to my classmates, to my peers? When my mother was my age back in 1956, the haciendas of Barinas were started to get built in Los Llanos, and even if time has done its best to alter the course of the Orinocco, the wind still hasn’t blown on someone else like me. I curse every time I feel hormonal, I hate it when it’s summer and I am forced to wear tank tops. But, no, Isabella, you don’t have a choice. I’m grateful that my mother doesn’t have enough money to drag me to an island and force me to wear a swimsuit that reveals I have a female body. It’s now winter, and I can say that the oversized jackets and beanies that I wear on top of my school girl’s uniform are because it’s cold and that they’re my father’s. Although I have no father. Although they don’t need to know that. They don’t need to know anything about me. It’s only two more years. I’ve stopped drinking water because I fear the moment that I have to leave the classroom and pay a visit to the bathroom which door has a figure with long hair and a short dress. I go inside that cell and pee as quickly as possible, but sometimes it’s not that fast, sometimes I am bleeding and it’s so painful, I have to stay a bit longer and press my hands against my stomach to help the pain go away. And when I hear the steps of other girls, other girls who look nothing like me, I feel so frightened. I hear them whispering about me, mocking me because we are poles apart. But I don’t really know what I am. Maybe I am just a freak.

Then, I go home and run directly to the yellow bathroom and I free myself from my burden. After that, I undress, slowly unbuttoning my shirt and unzipping the skirt. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t recognize the echo. Who is this creature that the reflection says is you? Do you know this person? Do love yourself at all? And after saying “no” nine times, you say “yes” because ten is the number when everything becomes real, and you take a bandage and cover your breasts. You put on an XL shirt from your father that your mother still refuses to get rid of. It still has his smell on it. And you hide your hair beneath the beanie and pick your mother’s makeup, and you use it, not for your eyes or for your lips, not your neck or for your cheeks. You take the black mascara and dare to paint your face like a man, sculpting a beard on your chin. You know it’s supposed to be there, but sometimes puberty strikes late. You observe yourself in the glass and change the way you stand, maybe a little straighter, and you start talking, pretending you’re flirting with a girl from your class. It sounds low and deep, but more than anything, it sounds confident. And then you close your eyes and imagine yourself the way you actually see yourself in dreams, the Adam’s apple falling lower a little more every day. Your hands are so large, and so are your feet, and between your legs, you have a weapon, a very flexible one, that one day is going to give enough love and enough pleasure to a woman who wants to be called a woman, and at that moment you know that you are truly being yourself. Then you open your eyes, saying

Eres un hombre Un hombre hermoso You are not a sin You are no mistake You have a voice A low sonorous voice And a plunging one if you force it And you are radiant Just like you are No estás solo

And then you leave the bathroom wearing the classiest of skirts, hoping that tomorrow you will have enough courage to leave the house wearing trousers, praying every night that you can one day use the blue bathroom instead.

Nowhere Ewan Golder

My not-quite-awake imagination takes these remnants and lazily begins reforming these ingredients into something new, stirring them into the dream soup. Psychic detritus. I see the Chilean Andes. I see a desert plain, a plateau that stretches for miles and miles. Surrounded by mountains. After trekking for days, months, years, who knows how long, I have arrived here. This is my destination. I ascend the mountain until I reach what seems to be the perfect vantage point over a vast, empty desert plain, just as the Sun begins to set. But I don’t see the sun, I just feel the dusk. My eyes are closed and I am meditating. I repeat my mantra, over and over again ‘Heil, Hitler!’ No, just kidding, it’s ‘Fuck me, Jesus.’ No, ‘Satan is Lord’ even. No, not that either, it’s something in Sanskrit and I’m not allowed to tell you... I am sitting on the ground in the lotus position and I begin to feel a vast timeless world stirring within me. The lived illusions of some distant former life bubble up before me, rising to the surface, then collapsing, disintegrating, and dissolving, then comes all my memories, my opinions, everything I have seen, been, felt or thought. They all fold into each other, merge, then break up and dissolve into the big soup. Soon, there will be no definable shapes left. It begins to bubble and boil and evaporate. I can feel something rising up from the lower depths, some kind of pure, infinite sadness; it resonates through me. My thoughts are gone. My memories are gone. Even the world is gone. There is only this pure sadness. No concept or time, place, or identity. The sadness now just flows through me and tears stream down my perfectly still face. I am not me anymore, there are no thoughts, just the sadness gripping every fibre of my being. Tears continue to stream down my face, down my body and onto the ground, the desert heat evaporating most of the water before it hits the ground or soon after, leaving salty trails down my face and neck, rivulettes of the melancholy brine continue to pour out of me, following through the grooves on my face. The tears do not stop. They flow and flow for days, weeks perhaps, perhaps even centuries, millennia. All the while I just sit there still, unmovable. They flow until I dehydrate, they flow until my body is dry and shrivelled. Shrivelled not only because of the heat of the desert but because I have excreted every drop of moisture in my body through my tear ducts. The tears eventually stop when the last drop of salty liquid has been expelled from my dry and shrivelled body, the last tiny tear disappears before it reaches the ground. My body sits there still, frozen, wafer-thin skin stretched around a dry skeleton. The true voice of nature has spoken through me. My body will sit there for however long it takes for it to break down, collapse and crumble into dust, and be carried away by the wind. The infinite desert, through the slow process of entropy, consuming me, assimilating me and all I ever was, then forgetting. The gallons of tears long ago evaporated and formed a tiny part of a rain cloud somewhere far away. But not here. It has never rained here. As I lay here amongst the residue of my dreams, I regard this fabricated vision before me and know that this is my deepest wish.

Rhiannon Ross

Illustrations by Rhiannon Ross

Greatest Love (1.0) Phil O’Neill The make-up falls from her face dull-eyed tears smear as they drip-drop onto the parched note.

Greatest Love (2.0) Phil O’Neill I tiptoed down the wooden stair You were hunched, weeping, facing away from me over your computer screen

Keyboard pushed away, you replied to my stilted questions ‘It’s my cousin with the rare name who has answered me’

I listened to the truth behind those phrases that I had heard so many times about how each family in the Soviet Union has lost at least one loved one

Your grandfather taken away as an enemy of the people taken away in his big black car to the Gulag and shot one year later released by the Internet, eighty years later to force those tears to flow again To meet your cousin in Moscow, to fall in love with me again


Pallas-Amenah Morgan The first time I went sailing, I was nine years old. The first time I went sailing, it was also an accident. My uncle worked at a boatyard in Baltimore, Maryland, where he tended to the rich, white yachts owned by rich, white people. He would take a tightly braided rope – I remember watching as the material scraped and bloodied his calloused, black hands – and wind and wind until it had been tied securely to the metal porting post. Then he would take the other end, following the line with careful hands, towards the yacht and wind that end to the bow of the ship. The knots were thick and unbreakable. I watched my uncle do this a hundred times. I watched him do it a hundred times more after he died. I would stand on the docks, staring at the rich, white boats, and watch the new old black man that had been hired to anchor the beasts to port. I watched this man wind the rope three times instead of twelve. I watched this man follow the line with dismissive hands to the bow of the yacht and throw it over the top. I watched the rope catch, but not securely enough. And as the man moved away to the next boat, I watched the yacht begin to move as well.

Backwards. Out of port. I watched my uncle tie the boats a hundred times. I ran towards the yacht and caught the rope. But my hands were not working hands. They were not thick with callouses and my grip had nothing on the thick, braided rope as I pulled, and the rope pulled back, and so – of course – I decided it would be better to get in the boat. And I did, I leaped over the bow and caught the wheel and pulled and pulled but the boat had no gas so of course, it Did. Not. Move and I was floating away from port and I saw my uncle tie the boats a hundred times and I wish he could have sailed them instead. Because it was wonderful. No ropes. No ports in which to safely harbour. Just clear, open water and I stood on the bow of the ship and watched with clear, open eyes as the rich, white men pointed and shouted at the short, little black girl as she floated away, the chains broken, sailing without direction as she left the safe, harbouring port to cross new and uncharted waters that were red as blood under the setting sun, and Uncle, I will never tie my ropes.

Lost in Translation: The Souvenir and the Truth About Film School Patrick Tanella

I encountered Joanna Hogg’s film The Souvenir in early 2020 after having just watched Bong Joon Ho’s masterwork Parasite the night before. Parasite, arguably the best film of 2019, left me hopeful about what filmmaking offered the world– especially for someone who had just graduated and had no clue what to do with his life. However, Hogg’s film offered none of the same promises. Every film does not need to break new ground in a medium that has existed for more than a century, but I could not help but expect more. This is not due to her unique portrayal of a female director attending a British film school in the 1980s, analogous to the director’s own experience, but rather my complete disaffection with everything that occurred in the story. I have never had sympathy for those that turn their backs on their friends and cling to a toxic relationship, and Julie, our protagonist, does everything possible to lose herself in the maelstrom that is Anthony. Chiefly, she ignores her responsibilities as a film

student as she attempts to make her first film. Thus, how can one find substance in a film that seems to be muddled not with artistic errors, but a complete lack of narrative truth? While my path has not always included the best of choices, I found each decision Julie made to be dull and bordered on laughable behaviour. Without dispensing the details, Julie continues to accept Anthony’s mistakes that rise to dangerous levels, implicating her in the process. I found myself staring blankly at my laptop screen, debating whether it was best to shut the computer down altogether and forget the entire watching experience even happened. But I persisted, skipping ahead 10 seconds each time I could not bear it any further. The Souvenir’s end felt like the cool sigh of relief one emits after returning to the warmth of your home on the coldest night of the year. I have watched almost 500 films since my first viewing of Hogg’s film, and yet

I continued to think about this film that I had apparently abhorred. As a current student in art and film, I thought it might be helpful to revisit The Souvenir to perhaps be able to better explicate my critique of the work. I paid my $3.99 to Jeff Bezos and tried it once again, and this time it felt like a revelation. Hogg was not ignoring all the tools that other filmmakers were utilising in 2019— including groundbreaking usages of montage, editing, and score—but rather erected a monument of brokenness that any person in their twenties can relate to. Julie continues to be with Anthony because it is the only consistent facet of her life. He will be there, despite all his iniquities, to validate her experiences. The unique cinematography by David Raedeker combined 16mm film footage with a 35mm digital format, resulting in a grainy, melancholic hue to the story. Upon second viewing, the slow, barelythere plot became a comfort. A lack of narrative release is not realistic, as there are always further hurdles. Even if the relationship ended, there was no guarantee that things would get better for Julie. I also learned that Honor Swinton Byrne, who plays Julie, was never given a script. Rather, she responds to the dialogue with youthful clarity in each scene, providing a raw, realistic performance of someone struggling to understand their circumstances. A script can be a great anchor for both director and performer, but I really saw the truth on Julie’s face, reacting in real-time to the actions around her. Is that not what filmmaking is meant to do?

Being in your twenties and having no clue if you are making the correct decisions has been attempted on screen countless times, with the coming-of-age trope being an easy one to rely on. Yet, it feels unique through Hogg’s lens. The director released The Souvenir Part II this year, which features Julie reworking her student film to unpack the trauma she experienced in the first part of her story. Life is continuously defined by the people around you and it is easy to be so caught up that you forget how to function without another person by your side, despite all their faults and failures. This metatextual study in The Souvenir is a groundbreaking method of understanding what it means to try to find the truth in one’s own story, as I also attempt to figure out my relationship to filmmaking. My generation has been referred to as the unluckiest generation in human history. But who needs luck when you have the light of a camera to guide you through the darkness?

Vibrations Janise Yntema

Indigo Vibration

Outside of daily existence lies a contemplative space, sometimes found between silence and light, where scale is immeasurable, stillness is audible and the feeling of being is eternal.

Linear Vibration

Linear Motility

These works on paper, composed of beeswax, pigment and oil refer to this space, a vibrational energy, and the balance intrinsic in creation and the universe.

I often work in series, normally with encaustic, but always with beeswax. I keep my materials as close to nature as possible, using traditional, sustainable materials. The materials must come from nature and reflect nature.

Reflective Vibration

Linear Still

Art is my practice. These marks signify my time and my energies. To those who will understand these works, I am connected.

Vibration in Blue

Frescobol Cris M. Costa

Nobody knows how it started. Some say it was the Frenchman who, sitting on the sand, saw the Pirate pass by and lifted his paddle in a silent, universal wanna play? Others believe it was a bet or some kind of bizarre endurance competition. It was only on the second or third day that people started to gather, wondering at those two playing frescobol in the same spot without pause, without rest. The surfers, always first and last on the beach, noticed them on the right corner, next to the rocks. The Pirate with his back to the ocean, the Frenchman facing it. Someone mentioned the Frenchman looked like a Frenchman. The Pirate certainly got the nickname from the red bandana on his head and that shaggy grey-yellowish beard. The aviator sunglasses made him look like an extra from Mad Max. The Frenchman’s muscles were loose, detached from the bones, his lean body an anatomy atlas, sharp and fibrous, like a chart on an acupuncturist’s wall. Straight hair, hooked nose, he resembled Emerson Fittipaldi, the old F1 racer. Dark blue swimming trunks, a leather bracelet on his left wrist, nothing more. The Pirate, purple shorts matching the bandana on his head, had a broad chest full of grey hair, thick legs bent like tree trunks, strong arms, and an invincible tan.

A small group of beachgoers, random sports aficionados, started the buzz. Nobody got near them, except for little kids or one or two beach bums who dared to try and break their concentration, disrupting the game. But they were quickly and harshly dealt with by the ever-growing audience. The Frenchman and the Pirate played. Under rain, cold and wind, they played. Through the night, in their sleep, they played, the pop! from the rubber ball on the wood of the paddles setting itself apart from the roar of the waves. Something began to blossom around that game of frescobol, something that grew and acquired meaning later, in the grand scheme of things. A single gesture early on marked the beginning of it. A young man in the audience noticed the thin brown line of shit coming out of the Pirate’s shorts, streaming down his leg. Like an instrument answering his counterpart in a musical piece, the Frenchman emptied himself too, spilling down his pale wiry legs a dark brown streak that stained the white foam of the waves kissing his feet.

The kid tore himself away from the crowd waving a rag and approached the Frenchman cautiously, not to interrupt the game. Filled with elation, he knelt down on the sand and wiped the Frenchman’s legs, while someone else rushed and tended to the Pirate. The kids ran back to the crowd under thunderous cheering and applause. There were instant allusions to the foot washing in the gospels... it was around then that they started to acquire an aura of divinity. There was no respite. Constantly hitting, exchanging precise strokes, the rubber ball in a perpetual round trip between the paddles, days on end. Different styles: the Frenchman, plastic, defensive, digging impossible saves, canonically answering the blows that came from the Pirate, who whipped the ball without mercy as if he wanted to murder it, even though his face remained an inscrutable amber mask. Virtuosos, both, which is not to say mistakes weren’t made. It happened less and less frequently, but still, on occasion, the ball would elude them and wind up in the sand or into the water, dreaming about escaping its monotonous prison. The Pirate and the Frenchman breathed and waited in silence for the ocean, their zealous jailer, to bring it back. Whoever was closest snatched the convict and frescobol started again.

The audience, ever more numerous, became devout, doing everything they could to ensure the continuity of the spectacle. They’d bring them food and water, coat them in sunscreen, and replace the balls that tore over time with new ones. A small community was taking shape there, attracting hawkers, street vendors and peddlers who flocked to that little corner of the beach sniffing profit. The rocks of Arpoador, normally crowded, became swarming with people, mostly youngsters who arrived with tarps and tents, smoked weed and played cards and music around campfires. Makeshift bleachers made out of metal and wood materialised in the sand at a safe distance to ensure everyone could enjoy the Frenchman and The Pirate. Soon, media crews from everywhere flew to Ipanema to be mesmerised by their impeccable shots. They wanted to know their names (nobody did), the reason behind it (there wasn’t one), and the rules of the game (hit the ball). They wanted to understand and translate the Frenchman and the Pirate’s frescobol, process it, decipher it, export it. Around the world, countless frescobol duos stepped up to try and match them. They all fell. Theories abounded: an eccentric industry mogul’s behavioural experiment, androids, aliens, specimens of a superior race whose only message for us might be encrypted in the ceaseless comings and goings of the sphere, a cynical commentary on the immeasurable fleeting responsibility to one’s equal, a study on the power of solidarity, a wild suicidal protest... leave it to philosophy.

Books and songs were written, films made, T-shirts sold, cults founded. Politicians exploited the Frenchman and the Pirate’s image in their unending antagonistic campaigns. Artists, academics and scientists studied them, without ever interrupting the frescobol. All of us came to learn that some things were in fact true, sacred. They were about fifty years old when they started playing and now they must be closing in on eighty. Pleats of loose skin fall on either side of the Frenchman’s back like a curtain closing over the spiky vertebrae of his spine. The Pirate grunts softly and no longer bends his back to retrieve the ball, something that still occurs, albeit very, very rarely. When they finally invaded us to usurp the forest and take the water away, and the drones set Ipanema and Arpoador on fire, the two of them were still playing, whipping the ball back and forth under the black sky, bathed in sulphur, swallowed by the sun.

Finding Nona

Louelle Loreti Jongen

today i learned i am an addict. Ryan Bryce

today i learned i am an addict because i can’t stop micro-dosing heart attacks.

1 as i come closer to an edge, the light starts to bend, the blindfold is lowered and the blackout begins. time slows and nearly stops. teeth sink into my palms and i am crucified by Richter grades.

muscles tighten. release. tighten. breath is a luxury. the itches start and it all falls apart the dissolving form in the darkness only cares for broken english. a duvet is a boa constrictor i wish had eyes to spit venom into -

i always fancied myself a cobra.

i never asked this panic for a dance because all i can do is flail. a hand falls out and crashes into a wall of wet paint despite its clearly marked warning. nerves are shattered glass. the weight is exhausting.

but then again i only know how to wind the clock down, live on the knifeedge, sharp tightrope —

it’s a beautiful habit to play in the later game. betting on the late lottery ticket planted in my quivered fingers. and it’s time again:

a melting pot of blood/sweat/toil/trouble/tears/twenty pound notes/burned hair/broken promises/they-can’t-come-to-the-phone-now-please-leave-amessages/concave alarm clocks/half-smiles/spinning plates/cold rooms

(and by four in the morning i’m begging for my blindfold back but the only one here is covered in forgotten birthdays) so i reached for a straw Instead;

Houston, we have a problem the rocket-man has taken off and is orbiting us just-about-fine at an altitude of bank overdrafts and deleted photographs and banned Instagram stories do you have a response or should we just write them up/well i’m better on paper but turn your back and i’ll turn me to ash

revenge on a heart monitor ex-axis ekphrasis y-axis why ask me a question you know my pupils are soured because toxic waste doubles its damage

in the beginning i declared half was enough but by yesterday i’d asked for three and forgot the fourth but who needs it dessert is under my nails my fingers aren’t friends anymore they sprint on harp strings never touching for vibrato

i suck my fingertips wet and scratch the new marks on my shoulders tasting chilled skin turn the radiator back on

in the garden, the flotsam girl falls breathlessly into her own paradise but still asks for the bed like a fool nods a hello at my foetal body turns her memories off and puts her phone on charge

my remembrances are all retrospective caught smoke with bare hands shivering under plastic earthquakes and just after beads of sweat have mixed with slurred sentences on a wet patch dead centre of my mattress the cold winter light paints window frames over comatose eyes and unplugs me.

2 the phone rings at twenty-five to life and breaks my jaw. i sluggishly reposition my bruxed teeth and send it to voicemail. listen back four hours later.

puppet strings are cut and i am limp foam perforated with raindrops. hot hollow air rushes to blood my cheeks. i am served two weeks no cutlery/no napkin/same plate/no straws left. i’ve drawn all the short ones already. wash it down with pink wine and hope it leaves a throat-stain. chase it with whiskey and pray for sparked embers instead. punch the tiled wall and leave nebulas. fall in a haze of smoked grassland and hope it tickles between the toes.

bargain. hope. pray. refused.

3 no wonder they stamp ‘keep out of reach of children’ on prescribed bottles. i am awake. today, i learned i am an addict.

Charlie Gilmore

Charlie Gilmore

It Would Be Cruel Megan Teesdale every so often

you wear a costume

you reincarnate yourself

stand centrally on a new stage

breathe life into a new body

we both know it’s the same performance

an identity you find appealing

partly relieved because i like the dark games

you set off to find me

the thrill, the way you act like you care

a journey you don’t even need to consider

but a part of me is terrified

as you stitched a tracking chip into my back

you tie your issues like a ribbon

when we first met

tell me how hard it’s been and you make it so clear;

wherever i am

the cruelty of turning you away again

whatever i’m doing you always find new ways to show yourself

i grit my teeth

god, you were always so smart

and softly say “i’m sorry”

you disguise yourself well

and so, you take my hand

but i recognise you immediately

say something overly kind

though you go by a different name now

and lead me down your path again

a superpower of my own

Louelle Loreti Jongen

Apoorva Kapur

Never Enough Time Julie Stensland I didn’t plant the garlics in a bowl on the kitchen island. Seeds from the August harvest rot, in the cellar declutter closet and mind.

I am always guilty for the good I never had time to do.

The garden is covered in moss, luggage scattered over the floor — a broken clock on the wall and a calendar in June. Wine corks all over the kitchen;

I haven’t done enough with time.

Staged Leah Soeiro

It’s all politics, she said

At the door I watched her

uncurling her black

wan, sallow wrist

bra strap—

like a chicken neck, defeathered and

bouncing the light off her wristwatch.

dangling– how it created a line

The wind from the window

between her head

gossiped our moans across

and the door.

the lawns— hers staged (perhaps) and mine self-

I’m sorry, she said

appointed and indelicate.

behind sweaty bangs I just don’t do social media.

It’s all politics, she said and I thought she looked kind of

When the door closed

amiable despite those

the room was full of smoke;

high cheekbones, those screened phone

the wind no longer

calls, those

taking an interest

splintering falsetto laughs.

in what went on there.

I sighed and flung myself on the bed; It’s all politics, I thought as the smell of her seeped out the window.

Bridget Reader

We All Know Many Things Tugay Karakuzu for my beloved Ali

We all know many things. If we close the door, we can keep the sound at bay. We turn on the lights and see ahead. Are the streets solitary and a little pensive? They’re filling up, hopelessly entangled, with sounds will look to a feast day or skip that, what is enough: the sun that comes up towards dawn. We all know many things. If we raise our heads up we see either roofs and housetops or the sky. The cat roaming about the house maybe not soon, but soon enough will reach the living room where we’re sitting. When we awake in the morning, those who don’t drink tea will pour coffee, and if not, they’ll light a cigarette. Some of us will read the books we’ve placed on our shelves and others will just leave them be. Some of us will give them to others and some will be happy to just keep them to themselves. Others yet will read them and possess them.

And all of us will eventually know everything in the end. Those who left, they’ve left, left, left, have they

left? Those who remain will remain, remain, remain, will they remain? If everyone I mean all of us—all together—know everything,

leaving the door ajar for those who go— if, at the expense of not seeing ahead, we leave the lights on, yes, will we leave the lights on from time to time? The water should move, the stone ricochet. The chairs should be lined up, poetry should be written, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And everyone should know everything. A piece of the storm should be placed right in the middle.—Dividing the air in two— Everyone knows everything. Including the gaps that reflect each other, and the trains that’ll never go off the rails. Between sleep and more sleep. Maybe thousands of people step on a single pavement more than once in a single day. If everyone knows everything will just one out of those thousands know that the feet of one among them will never lift the dust off that pavement again? If everyone truly knows everything will they know that even if his feet don’t lift the dust off that pavement, he will step there, anyway.

Eoghan Gilmore

Eoghan Gilmore

Louelle Loreti Jongen

Olson Mehrul Bahri

There’s a pit in my stomach the size of a river too long in a river too deep, burning with a light I could hear shining like a million electrolytes.

If it was up to me, but it’s not. If it was up to me, but it’s not.

There are some things you never do. There are some people you don’t push into lakes, no matter how much how much I’ve tried.

Frozen, isn’t it? Frozen, isn’t it just another excuse to wet your hair under the sun coming down, Down, I have just picked a few berries and it’s too early to come inside, no matter what the time is too early to go inside.

My hands are muddied, my feet have wrapped themselves around broken beets I was told to throw out. The sun is coming, aha Aha, just what I was told, the sun is coming. Late as ever, but I hope it gets a pass.

Heat, Heat, mixing with my own. Don’t tell anybody I told you this

But the sun is looking awfully peculiar and pale.

I’m certain I’m certain the moon has taken its place. I’m certain of a lot of things but I’m out of time. The bell is ringing in my throat’s galloping pace. Didn’t plan ahead. Time that is only there to fill a space on the wall. It reads the same. Two o’clock and it’s only midnight.

Apoorva Kapur

Hot Dad in Square Émile Chautemps Lindsay Kay

First, I noticed your son– he ran past me, chasing after a blue ball. I was struck by his bouncing dark curls and huge shimmering eyes. I thought, I can already tell exactly how you will look as a man 20 years from now. Then I gave up my bench– the only empty one left once I left– and started to depart the park when ten steps from the exit I saw you him, the child, 20 years from now nobly keeping watch. I had to stop, admire. You have the stature of a soldier standing tall with hands clasped behind the back. You let go of your grip and allow your arms to hang freely once every few moments to kick the ball back to your son or to follow him down the sandy path.

I’m lingering now; trying to steal glimpses of your face from behind the wrought iron gate. I don’t want to seem strange but you’re so sexy. And although you seem like a sweet father, gentle and attentive that’s not so much what I’m interested in. You are familiarly tall. I can measure you at 6’2 even from a distance. You sport the same stubble length and texture I always gravitate towards a man. Truth is, you look so much like the last two men I loved. Was it love? Your left pant leg has crept up a little and I can see just a sliver of ankle. I’d like to take your socks off. I’d like to press my nose into your rough cheek to see if it feels like I know how it feels.

Now you’re speaking to some other parent. She’s a homely woman keeping watch over her own little one. You smile at each other because you have creation in common. Hm, I hate her? You crouch down to stroke your son’s small face when he becomes frightened by the other more confident child. What must that feel like? Normal, I suppose. Deeply normal. I want to learn more, uncover more truths through observation but now I should go… Just look at me once. Come on, come on. Well, I’ll walk back through the park past you one more time just... in case. In case of what? I hear French people are always having affairs. It’s like, their thing. Last looks: Green jacket. Black drawstrings. Tan and grey sneakers. Skinny jeans. Hair like Carles. Hands like Davide. Voice of your own.

La Fête Luke Berte

Watery questions slipped on his brain, like fat over Teflon. Is the truth real? If she isn’t real, when will I know? His inner mystic was busy with the subtitles of his latest escapade. With delicate knuckles, Emma rapped again at the heavy door. The apartment held a dozen or so twenty-to-thirty-year-olds. Low-fi indie played from a small speaker in the living room. In the kitchen, Jonny leaned against the countertop and Emma faced him. People squeezed through the narrow gangway to use the bathroom, practically a closet with a toilet and a sink. A floor-to-ceiling French window opened onto a narrow balcony to frame a quiet and surface-dirty street.

They had been welcomed into the apartment by two young men holding flutes of bubbly liquid decorated with cucumber and berries. They both had large mouths that laughed and spoke counter to each other. Emma and Jonny’s coats were taken and thrown into an adjacent room without a fuss. So, what do you like to do? he asked, twirling up the bottom of her t-shirt with his finger. Casually, as though he was helping to examine a stain. Weird question, pulling away.




You can answer how you like, his voice tried to sound diplomatic, but his hard face gave the whole thing a domineering edge.

Emma gave Jonny a beer taken from her rucksack. You’re well prepared.

I don’t like doing, I’m a being.

From work.

A philosopher too.

I thought you were heading home after ...

Not really, Emma folded her arms, bored of the questions.

Well, that’s what I tell strange men who might cramp my style. She winked. And am I? What? Cramping your style? We’ll see.

God, he was bad at this, beers-deep and smudge-drunk. There was so much counterfeit socialising to get through before he could make a real pass. Against the counter, Jonny’s palms were positioned on either side of his angular frame.

How do you spend your time? He leaned into the worktop, feeling a drawer handle against the base of his spine. Passer du temps? Yeah. Emma smiled and said she liked sculpting, yoga, and seeing friends, you know, the usual stuff. An artiste, said Jonny, full of it with his attempted French accent.

reproduction of Warhol’s soup cans gawked with embarrassment in the living room. Many empty wine bottles, like a strike of bowling pins, lay flat around the chrome bin. Jonny felt like a cliché as he watched someone snort a line off the electric hob. I hope that thing’s not on, he chuckled to himself. The handsome stranger floated out of the kitchen, returning Jonny and Emma to a pair. Jonny gave him a nod as the stranger moved deeper into the dark living room. This place is lively, what’s the occasion?

Not really, and you? My friend just graduated, said Emma. I have a couple of friends, George and Lillian, who are— A handsome stranger with dreadlocks moved into view and said something to Emma in French. Jonny drank and stared at their stomachs, picking invisible hairs from his jumper. He hoped to look as though he wasn’t, in fact, permanently overwhelmed by how attracted he was to everyone in eyeshot. The handsome man’s t-shirt looked painted onto his pectoral muscles. Jonny looked out into the living room and suspected the apartment must be rented by young professionals. He pieced together his own version from what he could see: the double act who opened the door? Worked in finance. Together? Nah, each lived in one of the two bedrooms. It was too pristine to be a student flat. I wonder what Pantone this is, ‘Self-conscious White’? Any hint of colour would suggest a personality. You can’t have a personality if you work in a bank. The grey sofa pointed at the simulacrum of a fireplace. Promo posters in black frames detailed an exhibition at the Picasso Museum. A

Students live here. Ouai. It’s a bit full-on for student digs. The curated rooms, the youth, and beauty had hit Jonny as dull since deciding the tenants were most definitely bankers. The new facts, the truth that it was a student apartment just made him bitter. No point letting up on the banker narrative. Emma didn’t know them directly. The friend she was supposed to meet hadn’t yet arrived. Reserves of honest boredom worked through her stony face. So, photo boy, she said, coming back to him from somewhere. You’re working tomorrow, no? Just a train to catch. What’s happening? I didn’t really want to extend another invite, she was teasing him, but some people are going to another party from here. In a warehouse, out of town.

Hmm, sounds good. But my train is mid-morning. He felt like debris being swept up. He didn’t believe in this night. As though he could rub out the moon with his sleeve if he just reached out the window and tried.

the black went on forever, reminding him how he hated to close his eyes as a child. Afraid the world would not be there when he opened them, he kept them tight behind the dark of his lids. Favourite album?

Do you have a boyfriend?

Impossible question.

Very direct.

Top three?

Come on, don’t be aloof ...

It depends on ... if it’s night or day.

Emma smiled. The truth is, I don’t fancy guys. They’re dumb, awkward ... Oh yeah?

Yeah? So top three ... night albums ... It depends, is it the weekend?

They drink too much, watch sports. She yawned. That’s true. He said, unsure of himself. So, what do you like? Mm, avocados. Music? ... Something to dance to, you? Less dance, more Favourite colour?


You going to light my cigarette next? Give me your coat maybe? Go on, he said. Feeling on a roll. Green. You?

Just favourite music to listen to by yourself ... Hmm, Nick Drake ... Emma thought for seconds that felt like minutes as Jonny watched her eyes searching upwards for more musical references, the knowledge of which was of minor importance to him, compared to how real her body was standing next to his. He could see the soft insignificant white hairs on her forearms, moles spaced out along the inside of her wrists going up to the elbow. He loved her shoulders and wanted to touch her arms just to check. What if the night wasn’t real? When would she disappear? And then she said, Chet Baker and Nina Simone. I think?

Same. We’ve got so much in common, she joked. Then clinked his bottle with hers. Fizzing across his drunkenness was a brief image of the two bottles sparking like fireworks. He looked outside and

OK, you think good! He had stopped peeling the label from the bottle. He shifted to hide his growing hard-on. She was looking into the living room and seemed to want to dance. He was shooting through a numinous moment, thinking he was looking into Emma’s

depths but was instead, just eyeing her up, hoping she couldn’t tell ... suddenly something at his neck. The boiler his head was rested against popped and then smoked with melting plastic. In two hundred years will we even heat houses with boilers? Emma looked at the back of her hand, examined the sweep of fingernails, and exhaled deeply. Two foppish French boys negotiated a spanner. A girl pulled at the metal flap on the front of the beat metal case. It came off in her hand. Emma guided them to the darkness of the lounge. Their half-full beers remained on the kitchen sideboard as they fled the room. Dance music had worked its way up the playlist and the kitsch disco ball on the corner of the mantelpiece cast primary colours on the ceiling that buckled through the large, ornate, brass mirror. It enamelled the room in a fragile energy that was driven on only by the dancing of bodies. It could all end if someone turned on the main light. Jonny was all too aware. He felt anxious now that she was dancing with such speed. He had drunk too much; it might repeat. He tried to move slowly. Out of nowhere, Emma pushed him back to the wall and kissed his mouth. Deep and quick, pouring life back into him. She was laughing but he couldn’t hear. The room was bright and loud over his body.

Then they were on the roof sitting with other shadowed couples in the glow of cigarette cherries. They sat close for it was cold up there, clutching against each other, gently swaying in a still silence over the last warm beer. Jonny watched her throat, now, just a silhouette as she glugged, passing the bottle to him. Her lips were like two segments of fruit, pushing, pressing in the moonlight. Her arm was a stem. His erection had faded, and he was confused. Amazed at how one sexedup disco minute could so quickly be replaced with a roof view of the funereal sky, accompanied by heart palpitations at the foreverness of death. He was tired but didn’t dare close his eyes. Right mister, time to go. Emma pulled out her phone to check the glaring clock. They parted ways on the road outside the apartment block. Emma went to the warehouse and Jonny stood reading a text from his friend Lillian, with half a lidded eye.


The reporters arrive and I struggle to keep my place on the page over the slurping of coffee and clanging of the news van door. Finally, I mutter, sliced to ribbons by the front room blinds.

A dozen of them in the same bug-brown suit traipse mulchedup leaves around the house taking photos of everything: the peace lily I brought home on a night bus, my grade 2 violin medal, the scattering of Polaroids on my fridge.

I hold my breath for the first question. It doesn’t come. I guess I’m okay with who I’ve become, I start, unprompted I mean, there’s no point wondering what could have been.

I take showers that are too hot, pretend to like whiskey, arrange shop mannequin hands into the fuck-off sign. Coming-of-age films make me cry. O! To be centred in frame and set to Sufjan Stevens.

A discomfort settles like snow on the kitchen countertops. A throat clears, then: What about the truth?

Their pens hover millimetres over their pocket pads and I can almost hear their sweat glands engage. I discovered the truth the same way a dog learns to walk on its hind legs: by going against everything I’ve ever known. They won’t like that though.

I guess I’m still figuring that out, I mumble. The lights behind their 24 eyes switch off like a small village in a power cut. I don’t blame them. LOCAL BOY STILL FIGURING IT OUT won’t make front page.

You haven’t seen what I’ve done with the garage! I flail, afraid of which parts of me will be left once they leave, but they’re already stubbing their Marlboros on the soles of their brogues and bottlenecking out.

Squeeze More Sleep In No More Sleepless Nights Marta García Gamón

Squeeze More Sleep In - No More Sleepless Nights —with this sweet lemony soapless bar.

Lavender was meant for that, cake definitely not.

Transparent wrap, lemon... ...microplastics mass-produce suds in herds, chained, goaded towards the drain…

...a nickel size will do. (Never buy what you do not want...) Grimace. Rinse. Repeat. When pressure does not avail, cut it in half. But first, squeeze it all out of the bottle, to the last drop: Pleonastic Petroleum —price reduced.

It was painted with watercolours and a white pen in 2020, during the first lockdown. Instead of watercolour paper, I usually use cardboard as I try to minimise waste. This carboard piece belonged to one of the online orders I made in preparation for the lockdown. When I paint I often start by choosing a colour. As the painting grows I often “see” an image and what ensues adapts to that. In this painting, some of the strokes reminded me of a human ribcage and, therefore, that’s the image I went after. Nevertheless, I like my artwork to be open to interpretation and I find it fascinating to hear what viewers see.

I chose this painting because, like my poem, condenses the relationship between environmental issues and their relation to humans. The colours also influenced my decision, as well as the theme of consumerism.

Works Referenced: • “sweet lemony”: Joyce, James, Ulysses (1922). • “Never buy what you do not want”: Jefferson, Thomas, “Letter CLXXXV” (1825), in Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson.

Cinéma Vérité: The French New Wave Craze that is Still Pivotal in Today’s Film World Emily Clugston

Translated to “cinema of truth,” cinéma vérité is a style of filmmaking that provokes a question of how truth can come across in cinema. It sets out to capture authentic life without a script or prompts. Established in 1960, filmmakers favoured a handheld camera as a means of easily capturing all the perspectives needed to present a whole “truth,” as well as long shots that lacked focal points. Candid, raw, and honest moments appeared on film, and a whole new structure of narrative cinema was born that still influences media today. Jean Rouch, influenced by DzigaVertov’s dedication to finding truth within film, is most famously known as one of the earliest directors of the cinéma vérité style. Originally an ethnographer filmmaker in Africa, Rouch’s obsession with the camera as a set of eyes led to his most notable work, Chronique d’un

été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1961), which captures the reality of contemporary society in France. Its unpredictable nature pairs perfectly with the camera’s discreet and impartial peeking eye into how French citizens of the time viewed happiness. The closing sequence admits to trying to create “truth,” as the directors discuss between themselves and the individuals on camera how much reality was accomplished throughout. This technique resurfaced two years later through the work of Pierre Perrault. Realising that people aren’t always willing to unveil their truth, Perrault used deception about film’s purpose to achieve cinéma vérité. In Pour la suite du monde (Of Whales, the Moon, and Men, 1963), the narrative simply follows people fishing for whales, which is what he asked his subjects to do. Yet, the purpose of the film was to show the nature of an

isolated life of the inhabitants sparsely populated in Île-aux-Coudres island. By bringing in this new concept, it allowed a more authentic side of filmmaking to appear but also the realisation that one can’t always let “truth” play out before a camera; ironically manipulation may be needed to achieve honesty. This notion is picked up again in the 1970s, with the documentary Grey Gardens (1975), a classic example of a camera neutrally following life. Eccentric individuals Edie and her mother Edith meander through repetitive days in their secluded estate. Their open and chaotic approach to life is reinforced by “fly on the wall” techniques used by Albert and David Maysles. As spectators, the truth is painted in a complex light. The ladies live a dramatic, carefree but lonely life. The tales that Edie tells are poignant but lighthearted. The cinéma vérité style allows multiple interpretations to be the truth while also allowing spectators to come to their own personal conclusions about the pair.

Staying in the 1970s, another example is found in The American Family (1971), a documentary said to be the first example of reality television. Yet, viewers outcried against certain scenes they thought were anticlimactic, commenting on the lack of dramatic reactions they were expecting.

However, by establishing the complexity of truth itself, and even Perrault controlling the concept of his ‘truthful’ perception of reality, one must acknowledge the issues that come with filming perceived truth. It is arguable that the directors staged moments to seem more realistic by toning down the way the family responded to situations. It reflects that although humans enjoy watching reality, the desire for spectacle and drama is equally as important. If we contrast this to a modern-day reality television, however, we are met with opposite complaints. Filmmakers will always ultimately configure reality as they arrange and dictate the shot, and that has translated from films into television. Take Keeping Up with The Kardashians (2007–2021), a very modern example of cinéma vérité. Certain moments have their truthfulness questioned as the reactions of the characters go to extremes. Furthermore, the fact that the individuals are celebrities calls into question how much they are trying to create a certain perception of themselves or to what extent they are attempting to entertain audiences in an unrealistic way. The concept of cinéma vérité is an innovative idea but when ulterior motives are at stake, the idea of the truth becomes distorted. Regardless of this, some techniques of this movement influenced narrative films during the 2000s, which reflects cinema vérité’s importance in film history and the progression of cinema. The Blair Witch Project (1999), a horror film that utilises “found footage,” clearly takes the idea of a neutral presence by letting the events of the teenagers play out “naturally.” The filmmaking process went above and beyond to achieve “cinéma vérité.” A key example

would be when a character is crying in a tent while wind and ominous shapes are attacking the outside of her shelter. This moment wasn’t staged, as the directors purposefully didn’t alert the actors of many happenings they were creating in the woods. Furthermore, the technique expanded to the film’s marketing. Missing posters appeared online just before the film’s release and a documentary about the myth of the Blair Witch was advertised in conjunction with this. Again, although partially constructed, the concept of the truth was still drawing spectators in over forty years after Chronique d’un été (1961). Even in mainstream popular cinema, one can’t get away from the high level of engagement achieved when films aim to display the truth. One could say Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019), a film with only one cut, takes inspiration from cinéma vérité by removing the illusion of an invasive director. The structure allows us to follow a story unfolding at a continuous real-time pace, with no involvement of an omniscient filmmaker. This allows raw, painful honesty to come across throughout and is certainly what makes the film as harrowing as it is. The concept of ‘real time’ leads spectators to feel they are watching events play out truthfully as if they are seeing it without interruption or distortion. Moreover, on the independent side of cinema, the low-budget hit Tangerine (2015), shot on an iPhone by Sean Baker, fell far away from the mainstream narrative and also uses the creation of ‘truth’ to engage audiences. It tells the half-scripted, half-improvised story of sex workers in L.A. The handheld camera at times shakily runs after the protagonists and its unhinged jump cuts are strongly reminiscent of the start of the cinéma

vérité era, in particular the previously mentioned Dziga-Vertov and his film Man with a Movie Camera (1929). In both Baker and Dziga-Vertov’s films, the directors worked with the limited tools they had available to them, the former through choice and the latter because of the time period. Despite being drastically different in terms of content, both use similar techniques, such as lingering action shots and moments from different perspectives to allow the audience to engage as much as possible. The idea of capturing truth is vastly different today than when cinéma vérité emerged. However, one cannot deny the importance of realising the attraction of displaying reality through film and cinéma vérité’s influence on film history, thus further emphasising the importance of Rouch’s groundbreaking film. Due to the complexity of the concept of truth combined with the different expectations from spectators in a period of advanced technology, these films and shows have recognised the importance of incorporating a level of truth—for both filmmakers and film watchers.

Pink Lady and Disciplinary Infraction Sonal Dugar

I drank. Somewhere in the middle of the garden of turquoise mangoes. On the trees, I saw more than five monkeys rollicking on their toes. I stood to one side and supplied flying kisses in the air with two fingers. The leaves and the stems, the branches and trunks screeched as the wind flickered. The monkeys purred and the garden slithered into a trance. Next, a grey monkey popped up by my side, held out a glass of diamond and asked me to give it a chance. Amid the clamour, not a word I could hear. “It’s Pink Lady!” he screamed in my ear. Pink Lady in the garden of turquoise mangoes, I knew, was a sin. But curiosity set off on my tongue, I accepted the glass and wobbled it to spin. I took a sip of the sweet-sour liquid and squirmed hard. My head was in motion like ripples that have stagnant water marred. Like a bow hurling arrows of warm air inside my head. My body lost weight and my head fetched it; so heavy, my head alone craved for a bed. The monkey didn’t give a damn, he chose me to make even. He is not single in blame though, I scratched my itch and chanced on ruin. The supreme bloodsucker, or buzzkill if you will, The Khadi Dog appeared suddenly. I had caught his eye; he grabbed me by my ear and flew off with me. Mid-air, I apologised: I didn’t know the garden of turquoise mangoes is for eating turquoise mangoes only. The Dog whispered, “All commit sin, but why couldn’t you be a monkey?”

Louelle Loreti Jongen

Ashton Lyle My work aims to meditate the difference between the promise and injuries of capitalist society through the use of visual language that mimics advertising and desire. By exploring the doubleness in the lives of contemporary laborers through candid portraiture and environmental images, I hope to reveal the absurdity of work in the 21st century and provide an entry point to workingclass identity for viewers.

Your Love Is True Emily Clugston

But you loved me. Through the frostbitten winter you locked me in a warm embrace, an endearing haze that clouded me whispers of a delicious


A poison that decayed each organ with the intoxication of healing. If I was good. If I was better. If I ignored the truth.

I say I won’t leave you as if it’s a choice and I believe it. Our fingers intertwined; my thumb painted delicate raindrops within our palms working within the cage of your support, hands pulling me up from the hell where I had put myself.

Your dark empathy shadows reality’s desperate beam of truth. The clouds start to blacken.

That pivotal hurricane strikes my memory every time the heavens open, your thunderous slurs echo as rum-scented fumes back me out my audacity in refusing your demand to come in. Pupils dilated, focusing on anything but the screaming truth in front of me

I notice my dent in the wall, photos tainted with my cracked glass, my phone void due to my clumsy words, my scars on his knuckles.

So that when I fall, my foot giving way under my mistakes, I accept my truth looking up wooden stairs at the omniscient being who has come to fix me. I repeat after him, a new language learned:

‘Your love is true.’

Untitled Lola Aylmer

I am sitting in Paris in the café outside Shakespeare & Co “The Most Famous Bookshop In The World” with a coffee whose cup and saucer match my outfit perfectly. My hair is a little damp from this tropical weather we are having. I know I look perfect and everything is coordinated. I think of the woman inside who was also perfectly poised with her antique hard-back leather-bound book engraved with gold, performatively stroking the shop cat. She was also perfect... if maybe a little stiff.

Inside the bookshop, I told two interesting-looking girls that my friend had had sex on the sofa they were sitting on, which is somewhat true but also a lie. She is not exactly my friend and I do not know if it was exactly that sofa. I become aware I am not wearing makeup, and how that, as much as my semi-poor French may cost me the tillgirl job I have applied for. It has always been my dream to work in a bookshop in Paris. Rain splatters on my table in a real and amusingly natural way. I read the first few pages of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway and the faultless, flawless, exquisite prose mixes with the aura of the coffee I have just drunk and the cigarette I am smoking so my stomach trembles and I fear I may shit myself.

Our Lady herself watches over me and the hundreds of other English tourists hunting for a meet-cute moment in Paris. English voices battle for dominance over the French honking of horns and speeding of police cars. They are also perfect. Actually... on reflection perhaps they are too contrived, like the prerolled cigarettes I keep in my little silver plastic case. I am planning on buying a cigarette holder to complete the tableau. I am the only customer smoking... that’s not right. The barista who is wearing a half and half split DHL / UMBRO t-shirt comes out for a cigarette break which reassures me as he is a Parisian. He then begins wiping down tables. On my last day of work in England, a customer told me she ‘saw great things’ in my future. Are these the great things? Or will they only be great in the photos and stories? As I write them do they become more great or more false? Paris seems to be for living fiction.

The Mystical Delights of Namita Sunil Nicky Charles Peters

What do drag, tarot cards and self-love have in common? Namita Sunil will tell you. A New Delhi-based model, artist and designer, she has cultivated a unique brand of fashion, spiritualism and selfexpression embodied by her vibrant art and a personality to match. In the midst of a collaboration to design the cover art for this issue, we sat down for a chat (on different continents) about life and art. What could have been small talk about artistic influences and colour choices was instead an enlightening conversation about the purpose of art, its connection to queerness in different cultures, and the importance of being kind to yourself. Her humble sense of humor and downto-earth attitude shines through, even on paper. She represents the voice of a new generation, one with a lot to say, and the courage to say it.

So, how did you get into visual art? I only very seriously got into monetizing it a few years ago, but until then it’s just been stitched into who I am as a person. Growing up, I’ve always been known as the artist of the class. I’m just a very emotional person, and art helps me explain who I am and how I’m feeling. I started drawing a lot of cartoons and anime when I started watching that. That’s how a lot of kids get introduced to drawing. It has become more streamlined and design-oriented recently. Yeah, I feel like lockdown was a time for everyone to think: “okay, what do I really want to do now that I can’t leave my house?” Exactly yeah, there was so much time.

Illustration by Namita Sunil

Do you usually work in the medium of digital art? I love analog stuff as well, I also embroider. If I really had my way, if the world wasn’t so fast and I didn’t need to make rent, I would probably be embroidering or doing watercolours. I really do love the slowness behind analog. I also really love how quickly I can get my ideas down digitally, so I guess right now, I’m primarily a digital artist, but I love all kinds. I can’t wait to dive into more analog stuff once I’ve reached a place in my career where I can chill out.

The thing that drew us to you when we were looking for artists was your tarot series on Instagram. What was the inspiration behind that work? What drew you to spiritualism and tarot? So, all of the illustrations in the series have been of my best friend, who’s a drag artist. Their name is Dame Imfala because they’re from Imphal, which is the capital of Manipur, and a play on Tame Impala. We’ve been best friends for a while and I’ve been following their journey as a drag artist since its inception, but drag isn’t a very popular art form in India, especially in the region that they’re from. So, they’re also very fashion-design oriented. All of the outfits on the tarot cards have been specifically styled by them, They never repeat a look. So we just thought, “okay, we need to document all of these looks.” They’re just so ephemeral, it’s great that they’re so one of a kind, but how do we document this in a way that respects how much work goes into it? We thought that tarot cards were the best way of representing the looks because so many of them could be instantly connected to each of the different cards, and my friend is very spiritual themselves. There are just so many different characters in the tarot universe, right? So many different personalities, so many different stories. I felt like that was just the perfect way to embody this altered state of consciousness for my friend and the tarot characters themselves. It’s just such a dreamy idea with so many beautiful elements. It just made sense.

That’s an amazing backstory for this series. Drag is such a rich cultural phenomenon, and so is tarot. It’s so cool to see them linked together. They are super queer, so it’s amazing to hear that they’re based on drag! Do you feel like there are many cultural conventions that you are pushing back against? What beliefs do you want to come across in your work? Absolutely. Being Cis-Het, I don’t know how much space I can take here, pushing back against conventions. I feel like my friend is definitely pushing back. I mean, this isn’t even considered a craft in India, so obviously, there’s so much that they’re doing. What I’ve taken away from drag is the celebration of one’s self. There’s just so much exuberance and self-acceptance. That’s radical, even for someone who doesn’t go through the same issues. Drag is just a terrific art form. I’m obsessed! Allyship is just as important. What is the artistic community like in New Delhi? Do you feel like your art has a space there, or is there more progress to be made? In the circles that I’m part of I feel very accepted. It’s just very open and accepting. It can also be related to class. I’m not really sure how people in different economic classes would be considering art. I’m privileged enough to be in a space where there is acceptance, everybody makes what they want. There’s always progress to be made.

Have you lived abroad before? We’re based in Paris. Have you ever visited? Yeah, I’ve been there twice! I love Paris. The first time I went was with my family as a kid, so I couldn’t really explore on my own. The second time we went during college to see the French opera as part of a costume course. We got to see these beautiful historic costumes from the opera for two weeks. We loved it, but we spoke no French whatsoever, so it was difficult trying to get around. It’s so beautiful, so beautiful, I can’t get over it. I want to visit again. Have you been to India? No, I haven’t. I would love to go. There are just so many different places to see in India. There are so many states, and they’re all like different countries from each other. Yeah, I feel like the pandemic has also been kind of beneficial, not just for art, but for globalization. Pre-pandemic, you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, or maybe on the phone. I feel like it has opened as many windows as it’s closed. Yeah, for sure.

Illustration by Namita Sunil

Illustration by Namita Sunil

You’ve talked a bit about how you got into art, but how would you define being a successful artist in your own terms?

Do you have any idea of what the next steps would be for you, or maybe where you see yourself a year from now?

I love talking about this because it keeps changing for me all the time. Obviously, I wanted a modicum of money and fame. I still want those things, I don’t think it’s bad to want money and fame. We need to pay our bills, man. For now, I think one quality I’m looking forward to most is sustainability. Not burning out in between. There was a period when I would take on too much work, and do a haphazard job for all of them. I would take on so much paid work that I wouldn’t have time for my personal work. No time to upscale or grow. So, now I’m trying to take it a little easier, even if I make less money. I can invest that time in other things and not burn out as often. I’m an anxious person, so I feel like I need to do everything right now. I forget that there is time ahead to achieve what you want. You have to make sure that you don’t get tired before that time. So I’m just trying to balance things out.

A year is a good amount of time. I like that more than five years because I never know how to answer that question! I do have a good answer to that question if you’re ever asked in a job interview. I would say that I don’t have a plan for five years, but the pandemic has shown that it’s more important to be adaptable and flexible than to have a solid plan.

Balance is important. I totally understand that feeling of thinking you need to do everything right now. We’re in our early twenties, it’s fine! I know! It’s literally impossible, you can’t do everything right now, so why are you kidding yourself?

That’s a great answer, I’m going to steal that one! Yeah, you can copy it! That is the next thing I want to do. I need to get a job. I’ve been freelancing for the past few years, and that’s been really cool. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m looking forward to learning from a group of people around me who are more experienced than I am. I want to pick up as many skills as I can. I’m a self-taught designer and artist, so just being surrounded by people who know more than me, I feel like I just learn and absorb so much more. That’s the goal for now. Nothing super crazy! Obviously, I want to do my personal work on the side and see where that goes. I feel like the professional dimension of things is just something that feels totally foreign, you just have to throw yourself in and learn it. Are you still in school? I graduated in 2019 from fashion design college. I’ve been modeling since college, and then in 2020, I started seriously getting into design and art.

Do you feel like you want to go back to modeling as the industry starts to open back up, or do you feel like you’re more on an artistic path? So, I do model. Freelancing allows me to make my own schedule, so I still model in between. Right now, I’m still able to balance both. I really love modeling, so even when I get a job, maybe I can model on the weekends or take a few days off in between. Ideally, I want to keep both. I can’t choose, I love doing it all! You can, I’m sure! That’s what’s nice about creative industries; you don’t have to settle into one thing. They’re all kind of related to each other. There are so many creative crafts, which is really cool. It’s so fluid and interdisciplinary. Exactly.

So, talking about this issue, what does the theme of “truth” mean to you? What did you think about when designing the cover? What influenced your artistic choices? I guess one thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is perception, the way we perceive the world. As I mentioned before, I am an anxious person. A lot of my time during the pandemic was just dealing with my anxiety. What my anxiety would tell me is “this is what the world is like. It’s really bad and really scary. You’re going to fail, you can’t do anything.” You just really believe it, it feels like the truth to you. As I’ve been going to therapy for the past few years, I’ve reached a much more healthy headspace. I’m able to see that what was once the truth to me is now completely false. I have a new way of looking at the world now, so what even is the truth? You have to choose what your truth is and then just really believe it. You see that in politics as well, there’s just the left and the right and they have their own version of how the world is, and they both think they’re absolutely right. I don’t think there’s ever really one truth and it’s just all about how you see the world. It’s kind of beautiful that way, too. It’s not just one way, we can all choose what we want, good or bad. I just try to always choose the good. That’s a great way to look at it. You based your design on a Klimt, right? The painting of Veritas? Is there something that drew you to his work? He’s just a fantastic artist. I studied Klimt and many other artists in fashion school, and his art always stood out to me. When I thought of Veritas, I just wanted something very beautiful, very fem, and his work is just so romantic. I instantly struck art.

Illustration by Namita Sunil

I love the mental health aspect of your interpretation. I feel like that’s a big advantage our generation has: therapy. Talking things out and being self-aware. Our parents didn’t do it, and they should have! Exactly! I know, I feel bad for them, but then they gave us our problems, so, whatever. We’re working it out. We’re heading towards a brighter future. So, one last thing. Do you have a piece of advice or pearl of wisdom for any aspiring artist or creative that might be reading this? This is something that I’m also telling myself every day. Just be less hard on yourself. Just be more kind. It’s not really related to art, per se, but one thing I face when making new art is stopping myself before I even make the thing, or me never getting around to making that work because I’m too scared. I procrastinate because I’m scared of failure, or I’m scared of making a mistake. So, I’m just telling myself now that mistakes are inevitable, and just because you make one doesn’t mean you’re a bad artist. It’s only logical, you’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. That’s fun, that you can actually mess up. You’re allowed to, it’s okay! Just keep messing up and you will be great someday.

Yes, art is about mistakes. Be kind to yourself. That’s the best advice. It’s so hard to do though. It’s deceptively simple to say, but it’s really what’s helped me the most.

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