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What's that T-shirt all about?

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My T-Shirt and it's significance

Okay, I have to start by saying that I find it super hard to talk about my work! Some of my art is pretty simple but I have a rule for the more complex pieces: let the audience figure it out themselves! But, just for this one, I'll break that rule.

This simple yet characteristic garment is actually a statement on the history of the Tea Trade in India. I'll start from the top: 'Manufactured in Assam.' The East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam, offering free land to European settlers who agreed to cultivate tea for export. Next line: 'English Breakfast Tea' is common label you'll see when purchasing tea from the supermarket. However, this traditional blend of tea actually originated in Assam, Ceylon and Kenya.

Let's get onto the lady drinking tea (milk and two sugars obviously.) She's mocking being  'proper' as she has her little finger in the air, often an indication of being snobbish or elitist. Her bindi is a symbol of being Indian but it's traditionally a symbol of being recently married (This makes the little finger mockery and cheeky glance even sweeter, because traditionally married Indian women are supposed to behave in a respectable way, and she is sarcastically mocking that expectation.)

On a deeper level, she symbolises the British Asian current cultural dilemma. Being a British Asian, I have often looked at the history of my ancestors with mixed emotions. They are deeply affected by British rule and partition, yet we have ended up right here in the UK, the same land that once ruled us! The hot cup of tea this Indian woman is drinking symbolises Tea Plantations and the economic gain of the British Raj. The way she drinks it embodies the tongue and cheek of British Asians today, with blissful ignorance of our past. We are not fully British nor Indian, but some sort of mix. On a positive note, its an opportunity to create a brand new identity for ourselves, and that is what's unveiling before our eyes.

Okay, almost done (I promise), now let's look at the logo beneath the saucer. This logo is a symbol of a new brand myself and Raghav Joshi came up with 4 years ago, and here it is - finally on a garment!!! The brand is called 'Normality'. The reason we chose this name is because it begs the thought of what Normality really is... or if it really exists. We would discuss this particular subject tirelessly: How on earth did we end up here, with our ancestors living under British Rule, to us living so happily in Britain? I suppose over any length of time normality is warped by comparison... but this is only 7 decades! 

Then we asked ourselves, can you make things normal? He responded: 'A cup of Tea is how I reach normality.' And that is when we realised 'Normality' (or normali-tea) is a damn good brand name for this. Our colonial history aside, tea is something that seems the make everything okay after a long day, it's a breather, a sigh of relief, a tiny life-pause when someone says 'stick the kettle on.' It's somewhat ironic that the very drink that brings normality, symbolises a strange and painful time in this brand. 

I end this T-shirt with the date of Indian Independence, 1947.

Karun Soni