Farah Yasmeen Shaikh

Since 1991, the SVLaureate program has awarded more than 150 of the finest artists the South Bay has to offer with honors, recognition, and a cash prize to assist them in pursuing their craft. This year, awards were given in several different categories: Off Stage (an artist working offstage, backstage, or pre-performance), On Stage (a performing artist), On the Wall (a visual artist working in traditional or mixed media), Off the Wall (a visual artist working in sculpture), and Emerging Artist (a young artist in any medium who shows promise for continued growth and excellence). This year the program added a new award, the SVNexus Award, honoring an artist who uses technology to fuel their creative work.

These artists are chosen based on the work they have created and their commitment to their communities. Through their work as teachers, artists, and performers, each of the SVLaureates has shown a devotion to their craft that includes mentorship, service, and forging new cultural understanding. 

Farah Yasmeen Shaikh: On Stage Recipient

The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh grew up in Salinas. Encouraged by her parents to pursue her artistic side, she began dancing at age five. Shaikh began learning Kathak—the classical Indian dance that has become the focal point of her career—in her first year of college at San Francisco State. That college class was taught by Pandit Chitresh Das, an internationally renowned master of the craft who soon became Shaikh’s mentor. Since then, she has built a 20-year career as both a performer and instructor. In her ambitious dance drama The Forgotten Empress, she took an entire team of musicians to Pakistan to perform. Her newest work is The Parting, a collaboration with EnActe Arts that uses dance, theater, and multimedia to tell personal stories of the displacement caused by the 1947 partitioning of India and Pakistan.

“What I love about Kathak is that it connects me to my history and culture. It presents a unique approach to music and rhythm, and its powerful technique, juxtaposed with grace and expressive storytelling, offers the opportunity to enlighten and inspire others. It is wonderfully invigorating to be in an environment of such creativity and innovation, but I often feel that our region is so tech dominated that those of us in other fields of work are not acknowledged for our creative endeavors. Artists are always looking for ways to fund work that we want to share publicly, and to be acknowledged as a worthy recipient of this kind of support in a region with so many talented and qualified artists is truly humbling. What I do love about the Silicon Valley is the diverse population that we get to reach out to, and though I am immersed in the arts of South Asia, I am thrilled by the interest of people
of various ethnicities.”

Farah Yasmeen Shaikh
instagram: farahyasmeenshaikh

Written by Nathan Zanon
Photography & Videography by DSOTM

This article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 “Profiles”

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