You might not know the following figures—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. This issue, we bring you two people with interests in their Columbia class pages. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at email@example.com.
When I walk into Carina Hardy’s, BC ’18, apartment, she and three plaster boobs are waiting for me at her kitchen table. She was born in New York and raised in Bali. “I’ve always been back and forth between these two worlds,” she says. “I’ve had a really interesting time at Barnard, primarily because I’ve been reckoning my ability to be creative but also be intellectually stimulated,” she says. For her junior year, she studied design at Goldsmiths, University of London. There she designed her most significant piece of artwork to date: an enormous, inflatable sculpture of a pair of breasts, which she built in Bali.
It was important to Hardy that she not corner herself into one type of art. “I’m much more of a whole-rounded person,” she says. The inflatable breasts were displayed on the Goldsmiths quad as part of her final project after making their first appearance at the Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand. “That [her year abroad] was the first time I just got to make stuff and fully dive into it because I wasn’t bogged down by the academics,” Hardy says.
The motivating concept behind the project, called “Back to the Breast,” was to explore the different ways in which society interacts with and discusses women’s breasts. Part of her interest in exploring themes surrounding breasts comes from the two summers in high school she spent volunteering as a doula and translator at a free natural birthing clinic in Bali. “I had always been really motherly and interested in that world,” Hardy says. “In that process,” Hardy says, “I was also in charge of breast feed start-up, so as soon the baby would come out, I would try to get it to latch onto the mom’s breast. I think having that, as a young girl, made me so connected to knowing about these women’s bodies and the power that we have… and also understanding that no two experiences are the same. No two births are the same, no two boobs are the same.”
The process of designing the enormous piece of installation art was complex. First, she used plaster-casting techniques to create many life-sized sculptures of various women’s breasts. An engineer then created a 3D scan of both one of the live models and a plaster cast of a breast, and sent the scan to a patterning company. “The first time he got a model back to me, it was literally half a sphere and I was like, ‘Really?’” Hardy laughs, lamenting that it was difficult to achieve a truly natural shape for the breasts.
Hardy then created the inflatable sculpture out of organic cotton and natural latex. Influenced by her environmentally conscious education at the Green School in Bali, it was important to Hardy that her sculpture, which weighs over 300 pounds, be completely compostable and eventually return to the earth.
It was also important to Hardy that she pigment the sculpture with rich colors (an earthy ochre for the skin, with golden nipples). “I didn’t want the default to be giant white boobs,” she says. “That just didn’t feel right.” She also designed the sculpture so that viewers can access the inside of the breasts through an “underwire”: a narrow tunnel that hugs one side of the breasts.
Although Hardy admits that finding community among artists at Barnard and Columbia can be difficult, she looks forward to what the rest of the semester will bring. Before graduating this Spring with a major in Art History with a visual arts concentration, Hardy hopes to display the breasts on Low Plaza, “between the penis fountains.”
Halfway through my interview with Osama Khalifa, CC ’18, he starts asking me the questions, and few times have I ever been so charmed.
“Well, what do you like to do?” he counters to me, after I have just taken the same line of questioning with him. I get the sense that he genuinely cares to get to know me just as much as I am trying to get to know him, and he is not even on an assignment to do so.
Khalifa shines as the star of the Columbia Men’s Squash team, though he would never describe himself that way. He won the CSA Individual National Championship to cap off his junior season. As a sophomore, he took home Ivy League Player of the Year honors for the first time in Columbia Squash history, and this season, Men’s Squash beat Harvard for the first time in program history, clinched by a victory in the final match by Khalifa.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Khalifa never expected his squash career to turn out the way it has. In 2012, his family had to leave Egypt after years of turmoil following the Arab Spring protests.
“Before the protests, I never thought that I wanted to leave. I wanted to play squash professionally in Egypt—it is literally the best place to train for the sport there.” In Egypt, squash is a major national sport, and world champions grace the local courts, “like if Michael Phelps trained in your local pool,” says Khalifa. This proximity to greatness at his local club tilted his focus to squash and away from gymnastics and soccer, which he played as a kid. When his family moved to the United States, Khalifa continued his squash career at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.
Leaving behind his life in Egypt was obviously difficult: “Even though you moved here, you’d have to constantly call the rest of your family back home to check on them. Because in a way it’s sort of like, ‘Goodbye!’ like you’re abandoning them. It was hard. Especially because we still have a lot of friends and family over there,” he recalls.
At Columbia, and particularly on the squash team, he has found a support system and a second family. He describes the team as “very international,” with both players and coaches from Pakistan, India, Egypt, Canada, and South Africa, who understand the recent added stress that comes with being an immigrant.
“Specifically, with the new administration, every time they come up with the seven new countries that are not allowed to leave, you’re sort of going down the list like, ‘Is Egypt there?’ because it could be there or it could not, and that would sort of determine what you are doing in the next few years. Luckily, it hasn’t been on the list yet,” he says, “That’s one thing that sort of affects the team as a whole, so they are a big support.”
Khalifa does not want people to think that his only interest is squash, even though his days are typically filled with two practices, a lift, classes and a nap. When the season ends, he tries to spend time with friends, rather than picking up another activity.
“I love acting, and that’s one thing that if I were to go back, or if I didn’t play a sport in college that’s what I would pursue. When I was in Egypt I was doing that for a little bit and that’s one thing that I wish I had more time for. I really enjoy it. That, and jigsaw puzzles.”