Kashi Art Gallery is working on a community based public art
project regarding women conceptualized and curated by Tanya Abraham with Gigi
Scaria, a collateral of the Kochi Muziris biennale. The first discussion took place on 26th
of July. It’s a process that would continue until Dec this year. Local women
are working on a biennale collateral project, “Can I call you back?”, whereby
art becomes a medium of expression and community connection.
Abraham is a journalist, author and administrator who is the creative director
and curator of Kashi Art Gallery, Fort Kochi. She has worked on numerous
projects focussing on skills of artists to enhance poignant concepts. She is
also the founder-director of The Art Outreach Society, a non profit
organization working towards social and individual change using art as a tool. Author
of ‘Fort Cochin, History and Untold Stories’ she was nominated for the
contribution to the restoration of a historical Dutch building to an
economically viable project by UNESCO in 2010. Currently she is pursuing her
Masters in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky, USA.
Scaria is one of the famed contemporary artists, basically from Kothanallur who
lives and works in New Delhi. Gigi Scaria’s work
draws the viewer’s attention towards the painful truths of migrancy and
displacement. The issue of non-belonging and unsettlement reverberate between
the walls on his canvas. Gigi Scaria’s art
focuses on issues surrounding the implications of the city’s rapid urbanisation
approach. Highly experimental, he works with several media such as
installations, video, photography, painting and sculpture. He is also involved
with welfare projects and expresses activism through art for social and
Tanya, Gigi, Sujith, Gayathri, Madonna, Deepa Anil Sivadas,
Devi Nayar, Marian Paul, Sarah Pamella John, Shridha, Jorjeena, Yashi, Asiya,
Sonya Elizabeth Bobby Antony and myself, were the participants of the first
stage of discussions that took place amid the old world charm of Old Harbour
Hotel in Fort Kochi which was renovated with the effort of Tanya Abraham.
'Women Power' - Participants of Kashi 2016 Project
Tanya Abraham (first from right)
of us misconstrue feminism for anti-male. This often distracts and deviates the
attention from the genuine issues at hand and ultimately undermines the cause
too. While the truth lies in the fact that feminism is just meant to empower
women, still the weaker sex in many parts of the world how much ever we may try
and be vocal for equal rights in every arena of ‘her life’. It just means to be compassionate, support,
co-operate and uphold one another without letting down the sorority which is
the need of the hour, more so now. Instead of ‘toxic femininity’ (as captured
in a photo by Tanya from the San Francisco based school bulletin board where her son
studies which by the way exemplifies that not even the much-thought-of-advanced-places
are exempt from such backlashes and back stabs) we should concentrate on
embracing femininity in all aspects of the term. This project of ours is such a
venture where we wish to support and care for our fellow beings just by
acknowledging their presence, by hearing out what they have to say and make
them heard if possible just the way it is; without much ado or drama that life
may or may not offer. Some ‘exist’, some ‘try to live’ and some rarely ‘live’.
It is only a natural want to live our lives to the fullest and to yearn for
what one actually deserves is something terrible and tragic.
project entitled “Can I call you back?” was aptly gauged by Deepa Anil Sivadas
who said that not every call has to be taken and answered. We, women, tend to feel guilty if we do not respond to each and every call.
This isn’t fair for we do have a choice to answer, to reject or to call back
later. It doesn’t apply only to calls, literally. It is so much more
Paul, an advocate by profession and as a member aware of all the legalities and
the contexts that keep popping up in her career time and again, voiced her
strong opinions which were poignant. She is much closer to the happenings than
perhaps any one of us. A point comes where everyone has to choose between
career and home and that sets the context as to whether she would be valued and
respected or otherwise reminisces Marian.
Devi felt that the institution of marriage is in itself wrong and that the
woman should have the liberty to choose whether to marry or not in the first place. She asserted that the marital status of a woman should not be questioned nor should it be the base for a woman’s identity.
Sarah mam’s personal tale on “Whose house is this?” (when she inherited her ancestral home) was interesting and made
the air lighter. Definitely a breather! (while it must have made one to really
think on why a women who “inherits” is someone that society can’t accept or
and her family’s sense of liberty changed with place which shows the strong
hold of the environment we live in, Asiya’s thoughts on a woman always being
inadequate wherever she is ( in job, home or anywhere else) is thought
The most aching was when one them concluded in a line that "I forgot you" after the partition of their property. Minimal, yet all effective in the sense that one could sum up the pain with such grace. I could feel the immeasurable ache in that statement.
When Tanya referred to the hairline thread of balance that
every woman has to face in her life to either strengthen or to give up on
something that pertains to social conventions, the way women treat other woman
particularly if she is successful and single are all that happens almost every
day, gossiped about and yet nothing positive or constructive ever come out or
paves way for it. Though Gigi confesses that this is his first women’s issues’
based project his ideas brim with charged vibes already, with definite
directions that he wants us to pursue. As he said, we may start with one idea,
a solo statement or any particular incident and it could just spread wild and
catch up with a whole lot ending up in altogether different zone but ultimately
a satisfying one.
I personally feel that women in Kerala are far better off than women in many other parts of India for they do extend their freewill in a way that others cannot. In our society girls are taught irrespective of being rich or poor, at least in these parts. Yet we have miles to travel, I agree. The differences begin from birth and we have to become conscious of our attitude – beginning from the immediate family; father, mother, relatives, friends...slowly and gradually change can be brought about. But it has to be a conscious one. Equality cannot be taught, it can only be emulated. If both the boys and the girls receive the same kind of treatment, obviously it will be passed on in the same manner. What one receives is what one gives. Women are under-rated, under-treated and expected to be submissive even to the extent of being objectified. Only when that image of woman as object is transformed can she herself get to the path of transformation. The responsibility thus lies on the shoulders of the entire society – each and every member.
This is definitely an open-ended discussion and a lot can
happen, be unearthed and unhappen... so we are open to suggestions, personal
stories and everything along those lines. We are in the process.
Photo courtesy: Sujith P R