The Hazara Princess



Chandra Brooks


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographed by Astra Pentaxia

Outline the story …

Here, I visually revise my Eurocentric princess into a Hazara one based on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea with my autoethnographical self-portraiture. Focusing on nature and racial identity in colonial ethnographical written collections based upon orally transmitted, anonymized folklorists through a fairytale about a rat. My aesthetic is based upon art I’ve created about this rat. First, I created a painting, then the cut paper which became a wallpaper motif, a fantastical futuristic princess and finally this gown. In the process uniting three voices. That of Black/Indigenous American colonial and enslavement narratives under the umbrella of Spivak’s thesis. Originally, this gown had an entirely different look to it which I struggled with releasing. As I was working to apply the aesthetic of extant museum pieces from the past decades I found it hard to accept that these are meant to be guides, not rules or punitively imposed restrictions on my creative process. A friend kept reminding me that more and heavier are the examination criteria for Afghan formal wear. I kept noticing nods to the Hazara in my construction, but it looked tepid and timid. Finally, over the course of the past week, I abandoned constraint and threw myself into this new garment beyond the memory of the original piece. I want people to look at this and think and wonder about what it means to be this person, their world, their landscape and coloniality.

Outline the construction…

This was my first time screenprinting continuous patterns. It was a nightmare. I made mistakes in not editing contours from the original paper cutting that did not translate well to screening. I learned construction by disassembling my Simplicity Ladies Sewing Pattern 1137 because I had not sewn it myself as it was beyond my skills at the time. I handstitched (baste, herringbone & running) lining from a friend’s deceased black bedsheet to my pattern pieces, made sizing and silhouette adjustments based upon extant museum collection Hazara clothing. The owner of a family run textile shop guided me through beads, fringes, and tassels. The ornaments were challenging to sew, arrange and plan. Handsewing had to be given over to machining even with Sashiko needles because although my metallic foil is light, it is plastic on tightly-woven plastic, thus being needle resistant! Machining wasn’t faster, just less physical. The tempo was often slower as I had to guide the needle strategically away from glass through constant adjustment pauses. I also had to unpick constantly as it was a process to realize when I was sewing these fringe and frills on upside down. This was fascinating and I will unpick the seams, add more fabric and probably continue exploring this aesthetic and process forever. Images shot on film light by a stoplight through prisms to highlight the dramatic elegance of so much black on black ornamentation and sequining.




  1. Avatar Stanislava Stanislava Pilkova on April 26, 2023 at 9:21 pm

    Simply stunning!

  2. Avatar Chandra Brooks on April 27, 2023 at 3:37 am

    Thank you! I’m happy you saw it!

    • Avatar Anna-Catherine Sendgikoski on May 7, 2023 at 6:08 pm

      Please know that without yours and others participation we wouldn’t have the representation! We absolutely love and understand the hard work, blood, sweat and quite possibly tears you have put into this garment! Just by you participating you have made me examine more and more curious about other types of clothing from countries I have never been!
      And the journey you took to get to this gorgeous piece! I am amazed!! I bow in your direction, my friend!

      • Avatar Chandra Brooks on May 16, 2023 at 10:28 pm

        Thanks for saying this Anna-Catherine,

        I hope that you do explore other cultures. I am working on the process of creating costumes which are related to difficult topics in the history of being a Black American. It helps to step away from my focus and explore ones that are similar, yet less personal and less triggering. Do you know the work of Gina Athene Ullyses and rasanblaj? One of the things I learned from interviews with her was the idea of studying others with similarities to help understand yourself. I chose the Hazara because they have a similar colonial past.

  3. Avatar Lynne Eie on April 30, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    🎊 This entry more than any other shows its soul and heart, and I think you DO belong. You are so creative! I am not, not like this. And, I am a person who is shy but was also often an outsider growing up (military brat, new kid all the time, now an expat) and this feels so weird writing this, but I want to be that person who smiles at you and offers the seat next to her. Sending wishes for the very best – Lynne

    • Avatar Chandra Brooks on May 16, 2023 at 10:32 pm

      The military brat thing is definitely difficult. I have been constantly moving for decades now and it makes a person kind of separate and apart while also being together with people. You never know what people are going through so smiles are often welcome. It’s great to be thought of. Thank you!

  4. Avatar Angela Karl on May 2, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Absolutly magical! I love that you found a garment that you can connect with and has so much meaning in it. The construction must have been a real struggle and putting yourself out here is a great success all on its own.

    • Avatar Chandra Brooks on May 16, 2023 at 10:33 pm

      A struggle that was well worth it. The comments are really encouraging, thank you!

  5. Avatar Lowana O\'Shea on May 7, 2023 at 9:00 am

    What a gorgeous entry! I love the textures you’ve created. You and your entry are so very welcome here – thank you for participating 🙂

  6. Avatar Susannah Allanic on May 12, 2023 at 8:29 pm

    Do you know what you look like in this? You look like a storyteller, one that is well-known and cherished by all of those far and wide. I imagine sitting away from the firelight and listening to you telling of myths and histories, of cowards and heroes. A story that explains why traditions are what they are and why they all have a bit of a future even though they are built on the past. I, indeed all of us there gathered, would be caught up in gleam and glitter as your caftan refracted and reflected the firelight and tiny pieces of our own images back to us. It would be magical and real at the same time.

    It is a wondrous garment you’ve created. Hats off to you! This is a place of storytellers and truth-sayers. You do belong.

    • Avatar Chandra Brooks on May 16, 2023 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you, I work in prose and autoethnographical research and this is an attempt at taking words from the page and. I have started working on some video content with a friend. Hopefully you will get to sit by the fire and view these soon!

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