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ELLE Name To Know: Hansika Jethnani

Meet the openly queer poet, businesswoman and visual artist, who’s carving a niche for herself

By Isha Mayer  May 14th, 2021

Hansika Jethnani’s childhood years were divided between Indonesia, China, UK and India. A woman with varied interests, she dabbles in poems, photography and painting. Simultaneously, she co-runs her gender-fluid jewellery label Funky Maharani, modernising maang-tikkas for everyday wear. A firm believer of self-love, the multi-talented artist has come out of her shell and has developed a strong personality. Here’s ELLE India in a tête-à-tête with her:

ELLE: When did you start writing poetry?

Hansika Jethnani (HJ): My earliest memory of writing poetry is from when I was 8 years old. I was quite an introverted child, and writing poetry gave me a medium to express myself. My poems now tend to have the themes of colonialism, migration, my queerness and body positivity.

Hansika Jethnani
Hansika Jethnani

ELLE: What prompted you to post your first poem on Instagram only in 2018? Especially, since you’ve been writing since childhood?

HJ: I suppose deep down I’ve always had this dream of being a full-time poet. But I was afraid to put my words out there, and somewhere I was also afraid of my own words. I wanted to stop being fearful and embrace what was coming to me so naturally—to write more and grow as a poet.

ELLE: What led to Funky Maharani?

HJ: At my previous workplace, its founder once mentioned the general absence of maang-tikkas to me. He wondered aloud how having a skull as a maang-tikka would be cool, and I immediately said, ‘heck yes!’. That conversation was the beginning of Funky Maharani. Its inspiration is the amalgamation of tradition with the contemporary. As desis from the diaspora, we are both proud of our roots and rooted in our culture. But we’re also aware that culture and traditions are constantly evolving, and we wanted to create and offer Indian jewellery that served as a testament to that change.

 

ELLE: Besides painting, which other art forms pique your interest?

HJ: I started out pursuing photography, which has always been quite abstract and like fine art to me. I enjoyed exploring cameraless photography, creating cyanotypes and experimenting in the darkroom. I saw the photograph as a painting and the light as my brush. In recent years though, I have been experimenting more with acrylic paints and alcohol inks. I like working with media that are fluid… There’s so much more room for experimentation then! I’ve also recently dabbled in a bit of mixed media—combining sculpture with acrylic paint to create pieces of art.

 

ELLE: As someone who has embraced their queerness, what do you advise those struggling with their sexual identities?

HJ: Be kind to yourself and take time to understand yourself. The culture we are from doesn’t make it easy on us. But it’s important to live life for yourself, and it is okay to break free from people’s expectations of you.

Download your digital copy of ELLE’s April 2021 issue here.