MEERA SETHI | MARTIN F. MANALANSAN & TITA AIDA/NIKKI CALMA

Aunty Drag

Meera Sethi

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Meera Sethi is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary visual artist whose affective, research-based practice explores the body, dress, garments, and materiality from critical, feminist, and anti-colonial perspectives. She engages drawing, painting, fibre, illustration, and performance to think through migration and its relationship to fashion, care, embodiment, and self.

Meera's work is in the permanent collection of the Royal Ontario Museum and the Wedge Collection and has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Mississuaga, and the L'Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival among other venues. She is the recipient of multiple awards and grants and also works a for commercial clients. (art@meerasethi.com, IG: @meerasethi)

Martin F. Manalansan

Martin F. Manalansan IV is the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts and Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2003; Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006). He is editor/co-editor of several anthologies and journal special issues. He has published in numerous journals including SAQ, GLQ, Antipode, Cultural Anthropology,  positions: east asian cultural critique, and Radical History among others.  Among his many awards are the Ruth Benedict Prize from the American Anthropological Association in 2003, the Excellence in Mentorship Award in 2013 from Association of Asian American Studies, the Richard Yarborough Mentoring Prize in 2016 from the American Studies Association and the Crompton-Noll Award for the best LGBTQ essay in 2016 from the Modern Language Association. 

Tita Aida / Nikki Calma

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Nikki Calma aka Tita Aida is a tireless and proud transgender community leader in the LGBTQI community of the Bay Area, beginning her activism in the ‘90s. She spearheaded remarkable initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Islander (API) LGBT communities and was appointed by then Mayor Gavin Newsom to be the first Transgender member on the Commission on the Status of Women. Tita Aida also has also used her activism and advocacy by mobilizing the transgender community of San Francisco and raising significant support for various organizations including the Transgender Law Center, AIDS Housing Alliance and A&PI Wellness Center. She is currently the Director of Programs and Community Engagement at San Francisco Community Health Center (formerly API Wellness).

Upping the Aunty,

An Addendum

In this video performance, I take you through the initial ideas that led to the development of the painting series called “Upping the Aunty” along with the street style photographs that inspired them and the colouring book that followed. I share interesting anecdotes and useful critique of the fashion and style blogs as they relate to aunties. (8:55)

Aunty in an Epidemic:

A Conversation with Tita Aida

Tita Aida is a term given by Filipino queers to AIDS/HIV disease and literally means "Auntie Aida."  The productive contradiction between the stigma and fear around the disease, and the camp and intimate dimension of this kinship term have produced the fascinating saga of  Nikki Calma.  Nikki is a trans Filipinx trans woman who is an AIDS activist and celebrity in the Bay Area and who assumed the name "Tita Aida" in her famous community outreach shows.  Her story offers the educational and activist potentials of "auntie" or "tita" in queer immigrant worlds. Not only is Tita Aida a historic discursive product  and figure of the pandemic but more importantly, she also offers bright potentials for a promising and just world in the future.  (29:59)

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