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Letters Lived Contributor: Elisha Lim

Letters Lived Contributor: Elisha Lim

Elisha Lim is an artist and activist whose artwork and campaigning efforts demand radical changes in race and gender representation. They succeeded in getting Canada’s Gay and Lesbian Newspaper, Xtra!, to adopt gender neutral pronouns and directed Montreal's first Racialized Pride Week in 2012, for which they curated the main exhibit 2-Qtpoc at the Articule Gallery.

Their artistry spans graphic novels, comics, portraits and film, all of which have made the rounds at exhibitions and film festivals in Canada and abroad, including London's BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Every year Lim self-publishes a calendar, comic or zine. Their 2010 comic, 100 Butches, has been featured in Europe's Diva Magazine, Curve Magazine, afterellen, NMP.org, and has toured with Michelle Tea's art collective, Sister Spit. In 100 Butches, Lim draws portraits of people she is attracted to "as lovers, friends or role models." Personal diary-style snippets of text are incorporated into each profile, a great example of how Lim mixes art and storytelling.

Favourite Dating Tales 2009-2013 is another amazing catalogue of queer experience that gathers pieces of art from Lim's New-Art-Every-Day project on the theme of dating. Colourful photos and diagrams chart the highs and lows that come with major crushes and new relationships. Another zine, The Illustrated Gentleman, involves Lim following around some very dapper queers to clothing stores to talk about their personal style and how they navigate between men's and women's clothing sections. These portraits are all incredibly unique and give us a glimpse into the largely under-documented style and fashion sense of members from the LGBTQ community.

Lim's contribution to Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths is just as thought provoking as their artwork, as it has a structure all it's own. In the letter, they speak openly to their 14 year-old self about taking on a new and strange journey to independence when their immediate family moves back to Singapore:

"You're in charge. Life is up to you. But you don't realize it yet. You keep waiting for instructions, because that's what you've always done. You're on a kind of obedient auto-pilot. You get sick and you wait for someone to look after you or to tell you  what to do. But no one does, and you end up hailing a taxi to the hospital by yourself, feeling kind of shocked. Christmas comes and you wait for decorations to go up and presents to appear and somebody to just tell you what to do. But they don't, and you end up very lonely walking around a ghost of a city."

Lim attaches an activity at the end of the letter that encourages readers to take part in "an exercise in naming your dreams." Lim hopes the exercise will help their younger self get past the fear of pursuing art full time and push readers to imagine the possibilities available in their own future if they take charge and stay true to themselves.

You can check out Lim's entire catalogue of projects on their website. They also have an Etsy store where you can buy all of the zines mentioned above, as well as cards, comics, calendars and much more.