Growing up without seeing much representation within the creative and art world, creative director Sami Kimberley, artist Sarah Khan and casting director Roxanne Farahmand founded Baesianz, a London-based collective and platform that celebrates Asian artists from all over the globe, in 2019 and took the matter in their own hands.
In a time where notions of diversity are used to advance a “business case” rather than an action towards equality, the three friends address this need for visibility through online and IRL events that uplift the current and next generation of the Asian diaspora. And with personal stories of distance from their Asian identities having grown up in Cornwall, Birmingham, and London, Baesianz serves to be a place where others can connect to their Asian heritage free from tokenism.
Initially created to start a magazine that addresses these issues, Baesianz had since used the energy of their community to empower purposeful initiatives. Baesianz addresses this issues beyond the written word through creating platforms and opportunities for Asian artists in the London creative scene. Partnerships with The Bomb Factory Art Foundation and Guts Gallery, to a curated selection of filmmakers in Nowness Asia and projects with Bow Arts serves as avenues for the next generation of Asian creative to see people with similar backgrounds doing incredible things. Baesianz believes that doing all these projects is to inspire them in creating their own paths.
Personal stories of the community sowed the seed of Baesianz projects and initiatives. Farahmand, also a co-founder of the casting agency Jinjo which works on commercials, music videos and films, continues to share her love of film with the community using Baesianz Cinema Club as a way to showcase emerging Asian directors and iconic films from Asian cinema. Nicole Chui, a London-based embroidery artist, together with the main Baesianz co-founders Kimberly and Khan, created Baesianz FC in response to the lack of Asian inclusion in British Football Culture. The football club hosts tournaments and trainings for women, trans and non-binary people of Asian heritage. Aside from promotion of training and participation for upcoming games, the Whatsapp group of the football club also serves as an active community that shares opportunities within the creative field. With other community based events such as a Makers Market in East London, a collaborative exhibition with Grubber and fundraising events for trans communities in Indonesia, the Baesianz community definitely puts into action what they preach.
With an influx of migration and cultural diversity present in England set as early as 1821, reconnecting to one’s heritage can be difficult but knowing the right community can open doors to opportunities and gateways to culture people will appreciate. The Baesianz founders iterate the importance of fostering community:
“London is a very multicultural city, from the Vietnamese community in Deptford to the South Asian communities of Whitechapel, this tapestry is really an integral part of the beauty of the city. We wanted to create a space where all of these identities, backgrounds and experiences can come together and flourish; knowing the value we had found in our friendship group of many Asian backgrounds, we wanted this same love and care to be available for all. Since the beginning, we have personally met so many new people, and our lives are continuously enriched by the community Baesianz has fostered. The most incredible thing is to see strangers attend an event and leave with plans to go and check out food spots from their shared culture or visit an exhibition that their other, non-Asian friends never had an interest in.”
A growing community combined with proactive partners furthering the cause, there’s no slowing down to what Baesianz can do in amplifying Asian voices from around the world.
Baesianz is a community with origins in China, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, and more. Below, meet a few Filipinos within this creative network of artists and creatives:
Isabelle Landchico, Multidisciplinary Creative
London-based Isabelle Landicho is a multidisciplinary creative whose work encompasses and champions conscious fashion and intersectional environmentalism. She is currently a stylist, public speaker, and fashion director of The Earth Issue. Recently wrapped up The Earth Issue’s collaboration with the Barbican and the Our Time on Earth exhibition, their curated “Stories of Change” symposium focused on the global south with 10 storytellers creating and communicating positive change through direct activism and amplifying the actions of their communities. Bringing representation to the forefront, Philippine-based photographer Carmen del Prado was also featured in this exhibit.
Bea Gemperle, Creative Strategist
A Fashion Communications graduate, Bea Gemperle is a Nagsugbu native and currently a Creative Consultant and Strategist based in London. Finding a safe space in the Baesianz community, Gemperle passes this energy forward as the co-founder of SUPLADA, a platform for Filipino Creative in London within music, food, and fashion with a recent collaboration with TonTon’s, a supper club in the city. She actively works with Kids for Kids and Kamalayan, founded by sisters Tasha and Bella Tantjuco, most recently for Pista ng Kapuluan, an ongoing exhibition that dives into the unique cultural archives of Filipino filmmakers and visual artists.
Lara Swift, Model
Lara Swift is a model and partner at Bugeisha Club, a woman-focused management and creative agency supporting female talents in male-dominated spaces. Growing up training in dance, as many Filipinos did, Lara is currently applying body and movements to modeling and current creative opportunities.
Angela Stephenson, DJ and Filmmaker
Angela Stephenson is a filmmaker and photographer also based in London. Stephenson’s documentary To Live and Die in Manila, which features Filipino underground artists such as Jeona Zoleta, BP Valenzuela, and Teenage Granny, was included in the official selection at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2019. Angela is also a DJ, filmmaker, and music video director for artists like Raye and Eyedress.
Shane Santillan, DJ
Living in London since she was six, Shane Santillan grew up exploring the electronic and dance music of the east side of the city. A DJ under the alias Daebak, she is also the co-founder of @mp3mpire, a music collective with talents coming from London and Manchester. Santillan continues to promote representation within the arts and music industry through curated club events, radio shows, and workshops around London and Sheffield.
Cristina Criaco, Knitwear Designer
Moving from Milan to London, Cristina Criaco is a womenswear designer with an eye for workwear and utility. She is currently a womenswear and knitwear designer for her own eponymous brand. Previously working for Jaded London, NICCE, Hemsley, and Nasir Mazhar, Criaco taught herself how to knit during the pandemic, a hobby that has since then led to her business.