Artist Misha Japanwala owns her South Asian heritage with an ode to her nose and her Nose Candle Holder

Artist Misha Japanwala owns her South Asian heritage with an ode to her nose and her Nose Candle Holder

The designer addressed Eurocentric beauty standards and their influence on how one views themselves.
03 Dec, 2022

It’s about time we come to terms with the fact that there is no one standard of beauty. No one needs to morph themselves to fit someone else’s definition of what’s attractive. Doing just that, Pakistani artist Misha Japanwala, known for her designer breastplates, addressed the Eurocentric expectations of beauty and the hold they have over how one interacts with their body. She talked about how she transmuted her hatred of her ‘sharp’ nose into acceptance and love, owning her South Asian heritage.

On Friday, she shared photos of the candle holder, old Mughal portraits, South Asian noses and the frequently used “nose job” hashtag along with a note, titled, “Ode to my Nose Candle Holder”. “I hated my nose for most of my life. The West has done an impeccable [job] of convincing those of us from the Global South that if you don’t have a cute European button nose it means that you’re ugly,” she wrote.

“Constant reminders in print and on screens in images and words that the people we allow to tell us what is beautiful explicitly say that our noses are not. The lengths we have gone to remove these memorials of who we are, undergoing violent procedures and splicing that footage together with catchy music to share in a 60-second video existing alongside thousands of others, all pleading: Are we beautiful enough for you now?”

She talked about the work she put in to change her relationship with her nose. “I took this ‘ugly’ part of my body and turned it into something else entirely. From the thing between my eyes whose sharpness startled me every time I looked down and squinted, who I always avoided looking at too closely in the mirror to something I spent months looking at intimately in my studio, under lights, magnifying glasses and angles I had never experienced in the 27 years prior that we had moved through the world together. An object that commands physical space and helps light up a room,” she said.

She described the “large, sharp noses” on the centuries old Mughal portraits and wondered what the historical documentation of our ancestors would look like “had they all asked for it to be altered to sit more quietly on their faces”. “I also love that these portraits show them with their dupattas on their heads and their chests bare, the depiction of their body documentational and allegorical as opposed to erotic and sexual (big nose bare chest gang),” she added.

She talked about slide seven that contains a collage of South Asian noses, a project by photographer Simrah Farrukh, and said they are “reminders of who we are and where we come from, and what it means to honour our beauty, history, truth, existence”. “I look down at my nose now and smile,” she concluded.

Many of us have grown up hating our noses, wishing for them to be softer or smaller, wanting to smoothen the edges. We subjected our noses to criticism, never accepting them for what they are — a gift from those who came before us, marks of our unique identity and history. It’s time to stop looking around for a definition of beauty and start loving who we are by owning what we look like. Brown skin is beautiful, big noses command attention and sharp noses are striking. We don’t need to shrink ourselves or hide our distinct identifiers, we need to flaunt them. Apologise to your nose for the years you spent denying it love and thank it for defining who you are.


Truth be told Dec 03, 2022 01:37pm
Because of her personal plate worn on her wedding, I know what she looks like and every person on the planet is equally knowledgeable of her intimate crevices and curves. Not sure why she gets promoted so much here but in afterlife such acts don't hold promise.
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Truth be told Dec 03, 2022 02:42pm
Good Job Misha . So proud of you. Very few people in Pakistan can and have accomplished such fame. Nicki Minaj is just one of your accomplishments. In fact the ode to your nose and candle holder has topped it all. Can't seem to wrap my head around it but your nose in the resultant piece of art appears to resemble a case of clitoromegaly. That is an amazing piece you just produced and now we know why you display such amazing control and precision in all your art. Not only was it inspirational, it was the result of relentless handling of the organ concerned simultaneously with hormonal surges. Bravo. Hats off. No other Pakistani has achieved such a feat in international media. So proud of you. Not only have you highlighted art, you have brought to light how these factors carve our women into what we could never have thought of. Good work.
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Pro West Dec 03, 2022 03:10pm
The formula is easy and 100% successful. If you an artist in a religiously conservative society, in a nation of strategic importance, create art that offends the sensitivities of that nation's mainstream, whilst at the same time appealing to that nation's vocal, high visibility media liberals to win unwarranted plaudits and even awards from foreign institutions. To be honest, most artists would sicken the sensitivities of normal people anywhere - this is true in the glorious West too; the notion of 'pushing boundaries' is at the heart of what these artists want to do, regardless of what 'damage' they do to society. The Artist is by nature a selfish, self-centred person who yearns attention, and doesn't mind if it is adulation or abuse and contempt. Those interested should know this, whilst acknowledging them as a vital tool in the struggle to free Pakistan from its religious values.
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LOL Dec 03, 2022 04:39pm
Get a life please.
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Jigen.m19 Dec 03, 2022 05:26pm
Waste of time
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jsav12 Dec 03, 2022 05:42pm
I don't get it. The Roman nose has always been revered by the West. Button noses were appreciated on "cute", "dainty" girls but the Roman nose was what was believed to give air, stature and poise to every man or woman. There is a lot to criticise about the West but let's not invest things.
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Anisa Malik Dec 03, 2022 06:58pm
What a well thought out article, loved the ending especially !!
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Rafique Dec 04, 2022 05:30am
Are Misha's ancestors from Japan?
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FAZ Dec 04, 2022 05:44am
This is the solution to all problems of Pakistan. A country headed to default is busy in body parts..
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Reality Dec 04, 2022 08:29am
Why use South Asian tag to sell your wares .use your own country name..and then see the sales report
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Seedha Saadha Dec 04, 2022 09:03am
@Pro West aptly put!
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