Photographer Sujata Setia is the Gold winner of the AOP Open Award 2021-2022 with her powerful series of images 'Changing The Conversation'
"I was burnt in a house fire at the age of 18 months.
I lost a few limbs, my hair; a few toes. I have only got one ear so my balance is always off, as you can image (laughs).
It was when I grew older is when the questions started. Everyone was wearing makeup and mini skirts around me and I was still covering my head with a hat because I had lost my hair in the fire and my legs with long skirts. Why do you keeping covering your body? Why Is your head in a scarf? And I'd "its cos I want to." But I didn't understand why my answers weren't enough for them. For me, this is the way I lived. This was my normal.
(She draws a thoughtful pause and then speaks again.)
"Its harder being a female. It's the roles, the perceptions- that society compartmentalises us into. Boys need to be tough and girls should be caring and girly.
And that's the same with being Black. If you are Black you are meant to be a certain way, behave a certain way, speak a certain way.
Also, because you won't see many Black burn survivors, it sometimes feels like, I'm a "token". Even for the opportunities that come my way- one does think, is it because you need more representation or is it actually because you are genuinely interested in listening to what I have to say?
But when it comes to race, it is not just people who are of a different colour than myself but some of my biggest challenges come from within my own culture.
The way you look, matters a lot in Black culture, so that was a long journey of acceptance for me- understanding, where I actually stand.
I felt like an outsider, but judgement was quick to come by from others as well. "Oh you don't talk Black, you don't act black" I was often reminded.""
Being a Black-British; female; burn survivor has come with its multiple narratives for Raiche. It is a story of marginalisation at multiple levels. A story of perceptions.
She smiles casually and says, "Ya! Im living my best life. I wonder sometimes when people walk up to me and say I inspire them. While I am just living my life- I somehow inspire. I guess it's because scars have a beautiful way of telling a story- a shared story of many commons."