Stereotypes by their very definition are as widely held as they are oversimplified, opinions we allow ourselves to cast on each other built on judgment and hearsay. When Sadhna Prasad moved to London to pursue a Masters in Visual Arts-Illustration at the University of the Arts, she found herself in the midst of a sea of stereotypes.
“When you are put in a scenario where everyone is a stranger, there are many opinions,” she says, “And these opinions that floated around of certain nationalities were horrifying.” The experience prompted her to delve deeper into the subject, and eventually materialized in the form of a picture book on decoding stereotypes.
An animator and illustrator who has studied across three colleges (The Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore, DSK Supinfocom in Pune and the University of the Arts, London), Sadhna initially planned to keep her focus on India and tackle the stereotypical nature of Indian advertisements.
“When these ads are dissected completely, they change your perspective on why most of them work – because they’re all woven in a single stereotyped position,” she says. Her research culminated in an entire series of illustration, including Dakshin Bhara where she presented how one call sell an audience anything as long as it fits into their compartmentalized rules and Do’s and Don’ts.
Working on a topic that is so vast and sensitive, Sadhna’s greatest challenge was to unlearn and get the basics of decoding stereotypes clear for herself. “The biggest challenge, which I still face, is to correct myself every time I am being a hypocrite,” she says. The research eventually developed into a more global thought and led her to work on a parallel world that is similar to us and yet different. “It’s a very interesting and sensitive issue to deal with and a necessary plot to revise our understandings of ‘Right’, ‘Wrong’ and ‘Society.’ It can’t be presented as being preachy.”
The process of creating the book itself also posed Sadhna with the challenge of finding her own voice of expression, a quest she followed through endless nights of sketches, notes and reflection for three months. “The most enjoyable moments were at the very end, as the book began to come together,” she says “It was extremely satisfying and exciting, as I could relate to every bit of it.”
Sadhna is currently based in Bangalore, where she has just begun working on her first project in a year that is not based on stereotypes – a visual guide to learn Tamil. “Since I can neither read nor write the language, I will be learning it along the way so I know if its making sense,” she says. She’s also experimenting with animation and painting canvases around the same theme.
Images courtesy of Sadhna Prasad
Words: Taarika John