Breakin', India Style
The other day, I met up with He Ra from Slumgods, an Indian collective involved in many elements of hip-hop culture, in front of a mall in South New Delhi called Select City. He Ra is the guy who, five years ago, introduced the Tiny Drops Initiative to India, a program that lets children explore art, dance, and hip-hop culture. The political infrastructure in India is incredibly corrupt, and in most cases, you're born into what you're born into, and that's that, so any chance for kids to experience something outside of their limited opportunities is potentially life-changing.
He Ra led me into the Khirkee Extension directly across the street from the new mall. The difference between these two places is day and night. One houses upscale stores and is surrounded by freshly paved roads and vast parking lots. The other is an unauthorized neighborhood lined by dirt roads, a densely populated urban village that, because it’s not legally zoned, is not recognized by the authorities as a place that can receive municipal services.
In a modest apartment, I was introduced to kids ranging in age from eight to 18 who come from all over, some commuting for hours to be there, all watching breakdancing videos on He Ra's communal laptop to psych themselves up. They took that energy down the hall to a room where they practice their breakdancing and engage and encourage each other. They are set free with every move, despite the obstacles in their way. And they look good doing it.
Sunny Shokrae is a New-York based photographer. When she was young her Iranian family always laughed about how she wanted to be a photographer, but now she can laugh at them back. Her work, according to critic Kelley Hoffman, is "nostalgic for the now, for all its complex nuances, it is made from, and for, a new global community, celebrating the lovers of beauty, the kind at heart, and the debaucherous in spirit.”
See more of Sunny’s work here.