Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project


South Asian young women’s bodies and hearts are often the battleground of patriarchs, media and governments. Tired of our voices being left out of the dialogue about violence in our lives,  eight South Asian young women came together to speak out in the IZZAT Project.  This Toronto based expressive arts project combines illustration, writing and theatre to amplify our stories of resilience in the face of violence. We worked together for six months, sharing stories, healing and creating art.  Together we wrote six short stories, which were illustrated by artist Somya Singh and Selena Wong into a graphic novella. Our book entitled Heartbeats launched in December 2012.

Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project is comic book created by young South Asian women in Toronto. It is a love letter to our communities.  We came together as a group of young South Asian women to challenge how “izzat” or “honour” has been used to rationalize violence against us. Our bodies belong to us, not to patriarchs, media or governments. Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project affirms our right to safety.


Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project is an expressive arts project in which young South Asian women use illustration, writing and theatre to explore and share community stories about resilience in the face of violence.

The IZZAT Group

In the late fall of 2011 Pomegranate Tree Group was formed by community based artists, counselors and workers. Together with youth peer coordinators we created the IZZAT Project group with six young South Asian women. We came together from March to September of 2012 to share stories, heal and participate in arts based workshops.

Creative Process 

The stories we shared during our sessions were garnered through conversations with our peers, community members, novels and various news sources.  IZZAT Project group members developed and formed these conversations into six stories. Drafts were read out loud and further developed through role playing and theater based activities; we drew out key parts of our stories. We met numerous times as a group and were individually mentored by editors to further refine the stories. The illustrations were created from our sketches, discussions and continuous feedback. The final product is Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project. The book was launched in December 2012 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The comic book has been distributed throughout Canada and now the United States. As well as written up in a variety of media including Shameless Magazine & Make/Shift Magazine.


“It’s a comic book that begins with a love letter…A moving message that six young South Asian women in Toronto have written to their audience, their families and communities to explain why they have shared difficult stories of honour-based violence and resilience with the world.” 
– Noor Javed, The Toronto Star

Initial funding for the creation of the graphic novella graciously provided by ArtReach Toronto, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, Canadian Women’s Foundation and with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project Team

Kathana Ratnakara is a writer, actor and dancer from Toronto with a Bachelor’s degree in English. Eager to learn and to express herself, her greatest dream is to write at least one novel that gets published, followed very closely by learning how to make creme brûlée and meeting Tom Hiddleston. Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project is Kathana’s way of telling her family that while she loves them, she, and every other South Asian women in the world, deserves the right to choose without societal and cultural coercion.

Aruba Ahmed is a Pakistani-Canadian storyteller, performer and an unbounded free spirit with a love for books, kittens and amazing food. Her life motto is that one can never have too many scarves, or too many gulab jamuns. As a university student pursuing a career in health equity and public policy by day, and a hijab-wearing-ninja-diva at all times, she believes in the power of self-expression in breaking down stereotypes as a form of art and healing. Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project is part of Aruba’s journey in exploring the extraordinary, complicated and beautiful relationships with ourselves, our families, our communities and the world around.

Aisha Wahid
Coming Soon

Roxanna Vahed
Coming Soon