In his compelling stage works, Hetain Patel uses powerful imagery and storytelling to examine questions of identity.

Why you should listen

"What determines our identities anyway?" asks Hetain Patel. As a child, Patel wanted to be like Spider-Man or Bruce Lee; later, he aimed to be more like his father, who displays a much different kind of bravery. From these ambitions, Patel's new show Be Like Water examines shifting identities of all kinds, using dance and bold imagery to power a story of self-examination and self-creation. 

As a conceptual artist, Patel has used photography, sculpture, installation and performance to challenge cultural identity. For his work, he has grown a mustache exactly like the one his father wore when he emigrated from India to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and remixed the practice henna tattooing to incorporate English words and comics books. Patel's conclusion about identity: that it is an ever-shifting game of imitation. 


Hetain Patel’s TED talk

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