Rise against all odds
An exhibition curated by Anand Kapoor
Depicts the social biases that girls face in India. He tells Shrabasti Mallik that the artworks are inspired by letters that reflect anguish and pain of teenagers
There is a canvas shaped like a foetus. It is difficult for the observer to determine its gender. Through this artwork, the brother duo Manil and Rohit Gupta are trying to bring out the biases that a girl child faces in India, even before its birth. Titled The Rigged Lottery, it suggests how our society has the audacity to choose and manipulate nature’s organic process of birth, life and death. A few sperms trying to enter the ovum in the painting suggest that the discrimination starts the moment a woman becomes pregnant. The Rigged Lottery is part of an exhibition titled And Still I Rise organised by the Creative Services Support Group (CSSG) at Instituto Cervantes de Neuva Delhi.
All the exhibits — art installations and paintings — are inspired by letters written by teenage girls from Delhi, UAE, China and UK. The letters were
the result of a workshop conducted by CSSG in various schools in the Capital. Curator of the exhibition Anand Kapoor says, “We motivated them to write about what it means to be a girl and their aspirations. We initiated a discussion by talking about stereotypes. Like in a single exercise, we categorised descriptive words like brave, sensitive, loving or strong as being typically applied to boys or girls. They were then encouraged to think about how they see themselves in the future.”
The results were baffling. The letters reflected suppressed anger, frustration and anguish at being constantly differentiated from boys. Some expressed anger while some felt sorry for others. Some girls were highly accurate and in few cases, the writing could not bring out the depth of emotion or complexity of the ideas that the girls wanted to express. In one letter a girl expressed her anger on why they should be the ones to go to the parlour and get their brows corrected or sport a good haircut. The word of mouth spread and the organisation started receiving letters from countries like China, UAE and UK.
Kapoor was overwhelmed by the response and decided to reach out to artists from across the world to create artworks inspired by the letters. “We wanted to give the written word a visual expression, so we approached artists from all over the world. We sent them copies of the letters and they came up with their own interpretations. Since the letters are from all over the globe, we wanted the artists to be from different parts of the world, too,” Kapoor shares.
Qamar Dagar’s painting titled Usha, depicts the awakening of the consciousness. According to the artist, although there has been a distinct and positive change in the mindset of the people, we still have a long way to go. The dawn, as represented in the picture, is the hope of a future where women will have as much authority as men. Some exhibits show that the issue of the vulnerability of a girl is not just restricted to India but is a matter of global concern.
German artist Katherina Poggendorf-Kakar’s art installation Spirit (And Still I Rise) consists of a glass jar with an artificial pink butterfly and a digital screen placed inside the table, infront of the jar. Visitors are invited to tap the copper lid of the jar which makes the butterfly frantically fly around inside the confined space due to a sensor inside the lid. The screen, on the other hand, consistently projects shifting photo material, which relates to the free flying thoughts of the girls. In Katherina’s words, “The installation invites all the girls to communicate their ideas. It explains how aspirations and dreams can equip girls with the power to free themselves from the barriers around them.”
Kapoor says the theme of the exhibition was inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem And Still I Rise because it speaks of the unimaginable power that a woman possesses.A short film featuring celebrities and socialites like Shabana Azmi, Diya Mirza, Aditi Rao Hyderi, Konkona Sen Sharma and other influential women from India, reciting the poem and reading out letters that came from the workshop, will also be screened during the exhibition that continues till April12.