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The last couple of months have been rather dark, infuriating and intense. Post the horrific Delhi rape case, all forms of media have been abuzz with stories about rape, in its different shapes, sizes and forms. What’s worse than the act itself, are the ridiculous ideas and notions that people in this country have about the root cause of this crime. From blaming the consumption of chowmein for the rise of these crimes against women, it’s become glaringly evident that while India is on a fast track to progress, it’s got a long long way to go before it can proudly call itself progressive.
In light of this nauseating reality, now is a particularly harsh time for being a woman in India – where one’s sexuality, behaviour, upbringing, clothing, morality and life choices are under tremendous amounts of scrutiny and debate. Unfortunately, fear has undesirably gotten the best of us.
From this dark, unshakeable feeling, was born the Fearless campaign. Brainchild of Shilo Shiv Suleman - artist and illustrator extraordinaire, maker of Khoya, this was an attempt to reclaim the strength, courage and faith in what it means to be a woman.
In Shilo’s own words – ” I realized that I’ve spent the month constantly feeding myself with stories about rape in India, and while we felt rage and sadness I’ve caught myself more afraid than ever – afraid on buses, afraid in autos, mistrustful of every second man on the street.
There are some articles that are written for us to get a better understanding of gender roles, aggression and sexuality in India but there are some that are just striking fear in our hearts . While we need to keep sharing these links and letting these stories be heard so that it remains in the nations consciousness , We also need to be fearless and channel all this energy somewhere. We need to keep going out at night, taking public transport, wearing what we want. Fear is Counterproductive to the larger change that India needs to see. We need to use our ART and VOICES to AFFIRM fearlessness and bravery. ”
Shilo then decided to start by launching a series of illustrations/collages and posters on fearlessness. Everyday affirmations that remind us that we need to keep going out and being beautiful and fearless and dancing and singing and being feminine and doing all the things that make us happy.
Another thing that this campaign does, is highlight the far reaching and changing nature of participatory art in the digital and internet age we live in. A call to action such as this, has the instantaneous ability of being swift – to garner support, activate people, and grow organically.
Harnessing the powers of of social media, an open call was put out to illustrators/artists/designers across the country ( and the world) to create their own posters of positive affirmations and share them on the facebook page created for this project. The response was overwhelming. Over 200 posters came in. The campaign is ready to hit the streets of multiple cities across the country, as a tribute to the hundreds of woman that walk on them every day. The posters are spreading their wings and flying over seas to be exhibited in galleries. The proceeds from the sales of these posters will go to an Prajwala, an NGO that works for the rehabilitation of sex workers and their children. There is a hope that some part of the funds generated will go towards financing large scale guerrilla hoardings across metros carrying similar reaffirmations.
A big thumbs up to all the contributors to the project. A fierce, poetic and unrestrained collective voice has emerged from these affirmations – one that is hard to ignore and urges you to listen.
Some of my personal favorites from the series :
The entire collection can be viewed online here.
Other similar movements : One Billion Rising
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