Rupi Kaur’s Hat

And the flux of raw and exceptional art

I am not a Rupi Kaur fan. I am no longer her disgruntled critic either.

I do not enjoy her poetry. And I do not understand the mass readership for her work. But the brand that she has made of herself, has my attention. More importantly, what has my attention is her hat and the magical artist behind the hat.

I had recently seen Kaur perform live in Los Angeles where she showed up wearing a silk yellow sunshine bright long dress with a halo-like looking hat on her head. Her caption of below picture on her Instagram page from that day’s look says the following —

“channeling the sun for this oneee🌞. my halo was made by the incomparable @maryamkeyhani and team 🌙. it’s hard not to hold your head high when your 👑 is weaved to perfection outta so much earthy material.”

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From Rupi Kaur’s Instagram Page

I tried to look up what this “earthy material” was and what’s the story of this hat but I couldn't find much except for my very late discovery of this very exceptional surrealist artist named Maryam Keyhani.

First video I saw on Maryam Keyhani’s page was of a woman carrying and wearing multiple hats, and walking on a white wrinkled mountain next to a very light blue colored sea and under a not so loud blue sky, both divided by a weighty on its own, yet the well-merged with the scene, line of the horizon. The woman is playful enjoying her casual walk in her big frock and with her multiple options of vibrant and unreal hats.

I see then the moving astonishing image of a woman slowly walking her way into a palazzo, under a worn-down white plastered winding staircase, wearing a big white dress and a big white hat, and the artist here pointing out to the audience,

“May the clothes be so big you always need to enter sideways.”

There are women wearing hats that look like are made from ceramics, perfectly sculpted into the shape of pyramids, and maybe they are.

By this time I have lost my inquiry on the materials or techniques used, rather I am fixated by the beautiful surreal images and scenes, not from this life, but brilliantly crafted in some other planet birthed by the artist.

There are a frilled and feathery all pink dress and a matching pink hat worn by fierce modern eyes with an old soul. One of the followers comments on the image is,

“I want it all.”

Artist is seen cooking hat bread with a chef who always wears red lipstick and loves Tina turner. Artist is seen with other people playing dress-up and hunting for old houses in Italy. Artist is dancing and singing to a Persian song wearing her pink polka hat and holding a glass of rose wine.

Images of Pavarotti appear on the page, with him enjoying his Italian summers lying on a hammock and eating spaghetti. Maria Callas’s interview clip is making music with her hands and words that we do not know of. Artist finds Monet hot and likes Ivan Rabuzin.

“Not everyone deserves a hat right?”,

says the artist. Artist matches her clothes and her hats with that of her toddler daughter. Dali and Rumi are the names of the kids but I could be wrong.

Artist knows Sudan as she suffers today.

Maryam immigrated from Tehran to Canada when she was 13. She plays Persian music and dances to it in Italy wearing her larger than life, otherworldy, inconceivable, unforeseeable, fearless, big, very loud and very divine hats that the mother, the artist, the immigrant, that is in her, produce.

Her art instantly takes you to a mystical land where something very special is being played, one very honest, unique and inspiring tune. It is bold. It is jolly. It is profound. It is refreshingly and remarkably creative. It urges you to see and perform things beyond your mundane perspectives…

which brings us back to Rupi Kaur and the hat that she wore on her stage day in Los Angeles.

Rupi Kaur on the stage set for young women getting ready to launch their lives, has an underlying current of a well-practiced act, throughout the performance. She has practiced over the years her concepts of relatability, immigrants’ struggles and women empowerment, as well as her good manners such as humility, soft spokenness, and respectfulness.

When she starts to recite her poetry, she is singing, slow dancing, swaying her hips, lifting her hands, touching her body, holding on tight to her sun and her flowers. She is performing a lyrical play while saying her brief words in an oddly sensual and awkwardly convincing way, that I am yet to completely believe. But it keeps me engaged for its artistic effort.

She ends her performance with reciting her poem called Broken English. Broken English is a powerful piece depicting struggles and resilience of immigrant families. It is intense and sincere. It understands human brokenness and its soft power. Also, the last thing I would have imagined for the writer and narrator of Broken English to wear, is that halo-hat.

The matter of the fact is that my memory of Rupi wearing that hat narrating her rather simple and brief, but uniquely her poems, changed the way I would see her from there. Raw art has this unusual power beyond our humanly understanding and perceptions.

The hat that she wears while doing a rather imperfect performance of spoken word is not very far from the artist of the hat or the artists that this artist of the hat gets inspired by. They are all in their own way looking closely for inspirations, working with their childhood impressions, their respective old and new cultures, their countries of origin, their countries of settlements, their brand new destinations, their forgotten winters, their hopeful summers, their varied struggles and challenges as humans first, then artists.

In their own special eccentric corners, with their Frankenstein souls, with their maze of an existence, they are expressing their torment and bliss, whether through surreal hats or an awkward poetry recitation. At this point it is not about great, mediocre or bad art. Here it is simply art originating from what it means to be human in its very confusing and alive form, slipping into our consciousness beating all prejudices and biases, and simply revealing itself as a human writing a simple poem or making a dreamlike hat.

flux of raw and exceptional art

Exceptional/perfect art will show you and remind you to look beyond. With it, you learn to transcend to your higher levels of consciousness. Raw/imperfect art will remind you you are human. It will reveal yourself to you in your bareness. It will be your mirror of today to prepare for a better tomorrow. They are both without boundaries and flow into and away from each other all the time. In this constant flux, an artist thrives.


Vaishali Paliwal

“There is an old Sicilian lady I visited who told me I would love the (true) story of an Italian Contessa who would stay in her balcony all dressed up and greet her guests by throwing fancy candy as they have arrived…this morning I woke up and thought if I were her I would greet you like this… and we would dress up and play all evening in my hatquarters/ pink plaster palazzo.” — Maryam Keyhani

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