Skip to main content
Writing (MA)

Saumya Sharma

I am a critical writer, visual designer, content strategist and a compulsive story-teller deeply steeped in spicy potatoes x asafoetida, two things so beautifully Desi, I (almost) forget to sporadically rant about all things third-culture. I am interested in anti-colonistic cultural expositions within content creation, the notion of redefining Art Therapy in the 21st century, framing and reframing theatrical/ comedic narratives and typographically inclined publishing practices. My writing and editorial skills have (hopefully) been read in Vice Digital, TimeOut, Lonely Planet, Curiosity Magazine, AATA film media Group. In addition, I have been opportune in working as an Editor for ARC, RCA’s student magazine under the able leadership of Emily LaBarge, with my awe-inspiring cohort.

Before undertaking the MA writing course in my room; on my catastrophically misplaced desk, I graduated from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, with a degree in Design for Visual Communication and Strategic Branding, alongside Film. This school provided me with a platform to engage in process documentation, design thinking and most importantly– morphing eclectic sensory associations into perceptive visual conversations. I have since worked in advertising agencies such as JWT and Jenny Craig in Southern California, McCann Worldgroup in Mumbai, and most joyously– an art facilitator for specially-abled children. 

I am currently freelancing– playing the role of an exhibition & travel writer, and when given the chance, I attempt at writing scripts for ill-fated comedians; occasionally taking the stage in hopes that tomatoes are banned from the venue. I am also workshopping my way through my love/hate relationship with iridescent eroticas, the world of hang-slang, and what my favourite reality stars are upto. I (semi) firmly believe that my cautious rambling is a consequence, reflection and battlefield of my internal diarrhetic monologue.

The first eleven years of my life, I thought I am going to be Maria from ‘The Sound of Music.’

Flummoxed? So were my parents. The frown on their faces didn’t stem from my desire to sing ‘Doe a Dear’ wearing a gold dress cut from my mother’s sari, but the timid revelation of a rose gold orb that danced in my vision every time Maria sang. While their frowns gradually turned into understanding smiles, the fear of moving towns in combination with my sensorial oddities made me, what some may call, a closet Synesthete. 

Years later, I am, in equal parts– (finally) confident, and (exceedingly) nervous about using ‘I am’ when describing my practice, and that, I feel- encompasses my newly found (contemplative) conviction as a critical writer. Here, I present an attempt–

I inhabit memories, languages and colours. 

My life, a bioscope, labelled by location, and not by year. With fleeting glimpses of landscapes, people and chromatic experiences which pass by in a flurry. Perhaps a little too fast to pause. Perhaps an unsteady foundation in both languages; colours and words. Situating me as a third culture kid- inserting, creating and executing ‘kintsugi’ to fill plot holes the way Joan Didion describes it best. ‘Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.’

In being the protagonist, I plot narrative arcs that showcase units of change, clashing with my intrinsic inclination to be a creature of response. This reflects in the ideas I have fleshed out over the course of this MA. Saturating traditional processes of understanding ideas of childhood, community-building, alterity, and mental health leading to a shifting practice led by dispersing little pockets of hierarchy in expertise and towards the Quotidian.

My final thesis about the colour of my voice is an amalgamation of this intramural dialogue. Within the variable and constant, I try to play the role of an (unreliable) observer. I scaffold narratives immersed in the horizontal lines of my childhood journals, reconstructing my previously ‘single’ story through small and big themes of a lacking ownership, cultural indoctrination and unprocessed trauma through pensive reflections and pedestrian comedy interludes. *Sighs, catching her breath*

I write in commas and annotating brackets, performing my monologue with zest, oddly placed cues and dot sized pauses.

I was always told to speak my truth. I wasn’t ever told to seek my truth. And so I did.

‘So yes, go on, tell me White' is a semi-curated stream of consciousness engaging with critical enquiry, a singular attempt at an alternative esthesis and a raw lover’s disposition about a passive-aggressive relationship with chromesthesia; White (self-soothing, heterophonic )– A single story about the colour of my voice perambulating, hastening and sprinting across a multilingual psychological topography; White (imposter, flawed)- Outlines on a blank canvas superimposed as a clutter of words, materiality and aesthetic in the cultural politics of a Desi contemporary society; White (cool, balmy)– An indoctrinated heirloom of purity chasing intimacy, possession, heartbreak. With pre-determined fate of an isolated coping in the process of ‘searching’ for my white, threads of words, frames of references, and inter-sensorial translations, my journals function as the primary resource of fleshed out observations, triggers and reflections against the antitheses that is– the world’s Whites, inaccessible bibliographies, and misleading ideas of resolution and confrontation in pop culture narratives. In being an observer, personifier and a self-proclaimed critic, there is an accumulation and progression in archiving and listing of Whites that I started out with and the Whites I am collecting from the world. As I traverse the viscerally experienced chaos, control, fragmentation, and the bleaching of my White, there begins an adulterous affair…

‘So yes, go on, tell me White’ is a referential collection of notes about the colour I love and hate the most, arranged in a liberally chronological manner— short winded, whimsical, textured, self-annotating and very, very alive.

Ellen Key’s ‘Century of the child’ reminds me of a childhood filled with words like- Different, special, withdrawn, off-beat.. A childhood being utilised as a gateway to to being an adult, with education being a driving force of uniformity in thought processes, and the subsequent punishment of not fitting the mould– being labelled a misfit. But what does one do when one thinks in colours? Looking beyond the imagery produced by a reflective surface, one that makes me sheepishly tuck my hair behind my ear, leaving me to critically evaluate my superfluous flaws, I try and instill faith in the homecoming of light and sound waves, two forms I can separate and understand, regardless of my non-existent scientific background. I develop a passive aggressive relationship with Chromesthesia.

This project delves into the idea of access, contextual to the Indian ethnographic space I grew up in, isolated by this phenomenon that can often be viewed as a ‘disability’. As an adult, I have wondered about the lack of quotidian synesthetic narratives, leading me to Western conversations surrounding–

  • Synesthetic Literature– Writing styles used by artists and writers for decades, whether it be Nabokov or Kendrick Lamar.
  • Psychological Experts– Information based journals and books by authors such as Julia Simner based on the neurobiology and physical workings of synesthesia as a phenomenon.

For most young Indian children, trauma and significant psychological shifts can lead to a fading of this ability. No teacher, no parent, no institution in acceptance or awareness indicative of an inclusive synesthetic upbringing. I begin to look for accessibility around my everyday synesthetic self, and answers beyond Reddit or Quora threads. I look for accessibility in a context that does not recognise the word or its etymology. White, the perceived colour of my voice, the one I choose to single out in this sea of variables, becomes therapeutic and a cause pf trauma, the only constant I can cling to– and so it makes me a White observer, a list creator, a keeper of journals. Tangibly acknowledging White gives me a sense of acceptance, disapproval, some clarity, certain truths. Story telling, and art experiences become an adopted method of making sense of the world around me. Underconfident in both languages– Colours and Words, I try and explore and validate White with materiality. 

What if– A positive Art experience, a story of building a community, localised and sensitised cultural interaction could become a way of helping another child, specially in saying– “Hey, we are all here to help you figure it out”, and self therapisation would not be a remedial or preventive, just building blocks in understanding one’s synesthetic self. An intensified focused on progressive thinking, at times helping them disregard realistic considerations of world depictions. Hopefully, a collective interdependent ecosystem undertaking that journey from seclusion to inclusion.

Fair WhiteA non-chronological excerpt from the archives of 'Fair White', a sub- narrative constituent in the composition of 'So yes, go on, tell me White', Pg-1
Fair WhiteA non-chronological excerpt from the archives of 'Fair White', a sub- narrative constituent in the composition of 'So yes, go on, tell me White', Pg-2
Fair WhiteA non-chronological excerpt from the archives of 'Fair White', a sub- narrative constituent in the composition of 'So yes, go on, tell me White', Pg-3

Here is an excerpt from one particular Archive listed as- 'Fair Whites'.

A first hand account divided between the realms of Time and Tone- A semi- curated (and sometimes confrontational) stream of consciousness, in parts retrospective and analytical of events through pattern development, repetition, and urgent conflict; in parts, born out of a 'cradle to grave' mentality, unprocessed emotions and stories marking their natural progression.

The archival lists (like Fair Whites) are employed as a method of tally; self annotating, Cultural reflections of my present, and thinking towards these indoctrinated thoughts of the past. Every section is meant to be a progression of change, in hopes that this piece evokes the quality of thought in reading– thinking, writing and feeling simultaneously, for that in-fact is the experience of a synesthete.


The research for this project stems from my personal journals kept over the last 17 years.

One that can be classified as qualitative data that has been under documentation in the form of lists, notes, photographs, art pieces, and records of memories. Ethnographically motivated collections of lived-in experiences, of oral histories and trauma as an heirloom.

One that has evolved into reviewing and analysing via the aid of design thinking tools such as the practice theory in peer and professional workshopping to quantify experience, and how it has shaped 'Self' and 'Self-making'. Research that also extends its limbs into the Eastern 21st Century narrative; an upbringing indoctrinated with silence towards inaccessibilities and taking ownership, perpetuating a worldly White in a predominantly brown community.

Reading, comparing, critiquing and excavating– Strands and motifs in themes, patterns, frequency and repetition, and depth of meaning triggered by external and internal stimuli, ultimately creating the architecture of text.

In my nascent attempt to situate the "I" in this context, falling into analysing the complexities of self-led psychoanalysis, where we are generally best at sticking to our patterns, producing primary research reflexively has been the toughest, and yet rewarding way to create.


A comprehensive pop/household-cultural bibliography, providing textual accessibility for Indian and Non-Indian readers
A comprehensive timeline-based bibliography, providing temporal accessibility in face of a non-linear, non-chronological writing format.
A comprehensively transcribed bibliography, providing language accessibility towards Hindi words, dialogue and slangs for Non-Indian readers
A Glossary of White used in different permutations and combinations of context and meaning throughout the text, providing accessibility in recollection and familiarity for synesthetic and non-synesthetic readers

Have you ever–

Wanted to eat an Oval Peach when your mother shouts at you?

Forgotten a stranger’s name, only to remember their Salmon Pink ?

Thought of Fushcia as gravity in your friend’s voice notes, with a strong companion in Sea Green?


Have you ever–

Asked yourself– Is White more warm than shrill?


My submission is Both…and more;

Poised yet chaotic, 

demanding yet evasive, 

terse and yet, particularly linguistic.


Chromatically imagined, orally synthesised and transliterated to a legible stream of consciousness, 'So yes, go on, tell me White' is an anthropological enquiry, a love saga and a harrowing quest in search of the true colour of my voice, my White. This loosely arranged chronology of syncopated fragments speak as a word painting of Masala flavoured pop-culture narratives self-referential archives and overthought aesthetic, wading through themes of merging, obsession, isolation, triggers, visual observations and stereotypes. 


Overwhelming in details , fleeting in depth, cluttered with commas, under-punctuated thoughts;

'So yes, go on, tell me White' is an entrapped truth, and a forever moving curve.




This section is a snippet from the writing piece that showcases the indicative treatment and portrayal of the non-linear narrative as I imagine it will be in Print and digital publishing.


The treatment of the Text:

Performative

Visceral

Vivid

Archival

Handwritten in moments

Collaged


The treatment of Imagery:

Photographs dated in childhood

Personal journey through Art (paintings, excerpts, and sketches)

Self-portrait photographs

Trial and error in journalistic print



Proposed size– B5

Paper– Ivory 250 GSM

Type used: Libre Baskerville, 11pt. all weights



Books based in Art Therapy– authored by Judith Aron Rubin
A still from 'Mister Rogers', with the resident Art lady- Judith Aron Rubin

The Drafts(W0)men of Art Therapy is an archaeological essay looking at 'Problems of definition' through the lens of I (Saumya Sharma), Her (Judith A.Rubin) and Them (Elinor Ulman, Margaret Naumburg, Edith Kramer)

This is a collaged, interwoven tale–obscure yet vivid, partly narrated by Judith ‘Judy’ Rubin, swerving toward the edge of the precipice, a deep dive into interpreting the draftsman’s ‘Need’ for redefining Art Therapy. I am reading ‘Problems of Definition’ by Elinor Ulman, and as I drift into psychoanalytical contexts I am grasping at straws to keep up with, Judy’s ongoing mental narration helps me access this historically poignant journal with a sense of the ‘personal’. Judy and I talk about Naumberg and Kramer the two primary pioneers, their contributions in forming the Art Therapy Association, their historic rift and diverging schools of thought; Ulman in an active leadership role, refereeing these two schools of criteria and finding their formulations adequate; and a contemplative need for a ‘redefinition’ in the 21st century. I am leaning towards a team in parts, feeling included in parts, fleetingly forming strong opinions, silently echoing “Whatever it’s deficiencies, our two- word title at least indicates the two main trends in existing practice and theory: some art therapists put the emphasis on art and some on therapy."

Medium:

An Archaeological Essay
"So you breathe in. And when you breathe in, you scrunch up your face and you tense your whole body as much as you can. And then when you breathe out, you go…"
"So you breathe in. And when you breathe in, you scrunch up your face and you tense your whole body as much as you can. And then when you breathe out, you go…"

A friendly conversation with Emily Gopaul on her growing, culturally significant practice as a primary art educational consultant and advocate; changing art curriculums, redundant art assessments, heritage and community within a 5 mile school radius, white male artist bibliographies, her journey as an author and the urgency in inculcating positive art experiences for children.

Set and imagined in warm demeanours, contagious smiles and a gorgeous backdrop she calls home, “I am starting to question all the art I ever loved before” is a long-form interview; discursive, breathless in nature and filled with quick-fixed wit.

An Excerpt:

I log into my zoom at 1:59 pm, revisiting my umm’s and aah’s, desperately wishing for minimum usage of the word ‘like’. That one minute until 2:00pm makes me agonisingly reflect on the circumstances that will shortly lead me to asking a stranger for her consent to be recorded.

Emily is a vision in a yellow Sweater; palm caressed, period mirrors, a high ceiling (seemingly uncommon in London real-estate) with a welcoming smile. Emily’s growing invaluability to world of art education and curriculum reform should come as no surprise; her commitment to reclaiming cultural capital places the often fantasied but systematically dismissed formative childhood front and centre, posing a real threat to the sleepy status quo we've come to expect from the primary education sector. 

"Please excuse my nerves", I tell her, as I make a comment about this experience of conducting an interview for the first time ‘as an adult’, slowing building up to my journey, learning or lack of and vested interest in Art education as an evolving synesthete. Her voice is melon yellow, what I think of as a fitting aesthetic to her calm demeanour as she encourages and subsequently thanks me for sharing; ‘I’ve already learned from you’.

A virtual pep in my step, we fall into an easy tête-à-tête about life in Pandemic, her intent and penmanship in ‘Teaching Primary Art and Design’, her Indo-Guyanese descent and love for London as she inhabits mostly white spaces of teaching and art. About subscribed art diets, positive art experiences, children in assembly lines, homeschool rebels, lateral professional moves, doodling, seclusion, guilty pleasures, dentist appointments, internal landscapes, the colour yellow and of course…Boris.

“Yesterday, I had three things to do– the busiest day I've had for a year. And I was absolutely knackered for the day. So I don't know how we're all gonna go.” 

Medium:

A Textual Interview

“Freedom is for the educated people who fought for it. We were slaves of the English, now we will be slaves of the educated Indians—or the Pakistanis” - Khushwant Singh

‘I’m waiting to become Irrelevant’ Embedded at the junction of an elite archive preserving a select few words by behind polarised walls; interwoven and yet bereft of clear barb-wired boundaries laden with uncertainty, only aggravated by chaos and panic. ‘I’m waiting to become Irrelevant’ picks up at the frozen frame of a calm day’s river, and flows into the burial grounds of camaraderie, culture and secularity; novelties once enjoyed by my ancestors. isn’t a frozen frame on spotlight equipped wall, aided by a sanitised bio; Mine is a picture of a Vividly collaged, circular, chaotic, confused memories, incapable of restitution. Waiting to become irrelevant.

‘I’m waiting to become Irrelevant’ sits as one audio musing within ‘Just Speak Nearby’–a compilation of 10-minute audio works by students from the Royal College of Art MA Writing programme, each created in response to an image from the Pitt Rivers Museum online photograph collections. 

Medium:

A sound byte, with textual support
An image featured in 'Medium'
The Title Image from Hasan Minhaj's 'Homecoming King' on Netflix
The official logo of 'Brown History'

A Long-form critical Review Essay produced as a dual-toned textual soundtrack on dangers of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozii Adichie; with infinite ( and sparring)middle voices, and subsequent hot-takes on White guilt, Brown hypocrisy between dad and pop culture– both humorous, colour-blind, a syndrome, a rap song, a game, and gateway to a broader cultural phenomenon.

Medium:

A long-form Review Essay