Launched on 11 December, a brand new biannual, Clove, has a refreshing take on art and culture. Founded by London-based, British-Indian journalist Debika Ray, the magazine focuses on creative work from South Asia and its global diaspora.
“My impression was always that, in Western media, there was a narrow frame of reference when it came to covering parts of the world beyond North America and Europe,” says Ray, who until recently was senior editor at the architecture and design magazine Icon. “Stories from South Asia or the Middle East are often handled in a distant way, focusing on problems or crises and how people battle against odds to overcome things. I wanted to tell stories from those parts of the world in a way that were built on their own merit.”
Ray has put together a team that includes art director Simon Kühn (who has worked on titles such as Icon and The Calvert Journal) and design consultant Anja Wohlstrom (who has also worked on Icon, as well as New Statesman and New Humanist Journal), and the first issue features both clean design and a strong photographic element. There are written essays about Himalayan cuisine, post-colonial education, tea, and the sari, for example, but, titled Shifting The Lens, issue 1 also includes images from The Nepal Picture Library, photographs of Bangladeshi architecture by Randhir Singh, photographs of Kashmir by Bharat Sikka, and an article by Kasha Vande, the founder of the Pondi Photo festival in Pondicherry.
The cover for issue 1 is taken from The Nepal Picture Library, an archive started by the people behind Kathmandu Photo which now features over 52,000 images. Taken from peoples’ family albums, this collection aims to create a visual history of the country that also documents its photographic evolution. Clove focuses in on the evolution of studio photography for its article, with the cover image showing a Nepalese soldier posing in a makeshift studio in the 1960s.
“It’s such a stylish and contemporary photo,” says Ray. “Going decade by decade through the photographs you start with the early studio photographers who photographed in royal households and see it changing then to those who went out and set up their own private studios.”
Issue 1 also includes images of Kolkata shot by German-born, London-based photographer Juergen Teller, which are run alongside an interview with him by Kolkata-born, London-based architecture writer Shumi Bose. “It was important that for such a major feature in the first issue that it not just be perspective of a European photographer on South Asia,” she says. “This added a dimension to it where they had a conversation about the photos, their wider work and the city. There was an interesting news-worthy angle too where Juergen had featured Shumi in a shoot for the current issue of British Vogue.”
Ray was born in London but lived in Delhi between the ages of 4 and 12. When she and her family moved back to the UK, she joined the three million people of South Asian origin living there. She’s keen to work with the South Asian diaspora as well as creatives based in South Asia – a huge region which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In the lead-up to the first print issue Clove, she ran an interview with British-Pakistani photographer Mahtab Hussain on its website, focusing on his book You Get Me – a series of portraits of British Muslims taken over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham, and London, and previously featured on bjp-online. “We’ve had a discussion with him and will hopefully will be working with him in future,” says Ray.
“The culture of South Asia is a global culture now,” she adds. “I wanted to talk about its manifestations in other parts of the world. London is a great place to do that because it’s where lots of these cultures converge, for better or worse historical reasons.”
Ray is also determined to highlight the ways in which South Asian culture interacts with other countries, emphasising bridges and crossovers between countries and creatives. She points to the Mumbai fashion brand Obataimu, for example, which blends Indian techniques with Japanese ones. “Stories that draw on multiple cultures are particularly interesting to me,” she says. “I want to be fluid about it.”
Clove issue 01 – Shifting the Lens is available now from the Clove website, priced £10 https://www.clovemagazine.com/magazine/clove-01