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Framed
August 06, 2018

Your Favourite Marvel Superheroes Have Nothing On ‘Dead-Phool Auntyji’ And ‘The Incredible Hulkwinder’

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

An artist in the UK has reimagined immigrant women as popular superheroes

Imagine a very stoic Batman coming face to face with his female counterpart, except the latter, christened Satnam aunty, is a portly woman who has replaced the bat logo on her Bat-suit with that of an oil and fat manufacturing company called KTC. In spite of his taciturn nature, Batman is quite pleased to make Satnam’s acquaintance and even praises the updates she’s made to his overall character in terms of the bindi, braid and anklet. The former then returns to Gotham to fight crime within the pages of the DC comics whereas the latter returns to the UK to combat racism, sexism, sacrifices, domestic and verbal abuse through artist Kully Rehal’s sketches.

Growing up in an Asian neighbourhood in the UK, Rehal — now 30 — experienced first-hand, the struggles of immigrants who had left their homeland for a shot at a new life. Three years ago, she decided to document the struggles of Asians, particularly the women, who were first-timers in a foreign land, which led to the creation of “superhero aunties.” Introducing us to ‘Dead-phool auntyji’, ‘the Incredible Hulkwinder’ and ‘Ishpider Bhen’ among others, the artist has reimagined these virile comic book characters as regular Asian women getting accustomed to life outside their comfort zones. However, these women instead of merely navigating through their struggles, face them head on, armed with belans, chimtas, dandiya sticks, lassi packets and sambhar masala — their own weapons of mass destruction. In a time that has seen Trump come under fire for his policies of discouraging illegal immigration by separating families at the border, Rehal’s work takes on new meaning.

We spoke to the artist about why she specifically chose to direct her artistic capabilities down this road and she responded, “I chose Marvel characters that symbolise individual powers for each person. When I started my superhero aunties series, I simply reminisced about stereotypical surroundings in the mid-80s where I grew up and wanted to shed light and pay tribute to the struggles, sacrifices, and success stories of the women who moved from their motherlands to the UK. Every person, no matter what caste creed or gender, has a story to tell.”

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