An Indian ‘Last Supper’? Meet The Artist ‘Easternising’ Classic Western Artworks - Homegrown

An Indian ‘Last Supper’? Meet The Artist ‘Easternising’ Classic Western Artworks

When you think about Sandro Botticelli, what do you imagine? Is it gentle dames with milk-coloured skin and rosy cheeks? Or is it Medici and Florence during the Renaissance? What your mind wouldn’t exactly jump to is seeing a semi sari-clad Mahabharata heroine standing majestically in place of the Roman goddess in Botticelli’s most famous creations, The Birth Of Venus.

This image is, in fact, Minneapolis-based visual artist Nehal Kapil’s own rendition, her ‘Desi remix’ of the world-famous classic Western paintings, titled Birth of Satyavati. Kapil’s work borrows themes from Hindu epics, mythology and India’s rich tradition storytelling, and her interpretation and adaption of tales into visuals are incredible.

“A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see the actual painting in Florence, and ever since I was curious to create my own ‘desi remix’. Recently, there’s been a lot of conversations about westerners ‘borrowing’ Eastern cultures, so I thought why not ‘Easternize’ a classic western painting?” writes Kapil when she did her first painting back in 2016.

'Birth of Satyavati' by Neha Kapil
'Birth of Satyavati' by Neha Kapil

But it’s not just about a reverse cultural appropriation, so to speak, to simply infuse these paintings with eastern elements. Kapil explains that while that is what she does, her goal goes deeper than the seeming religious iconography in her work. She writes of modern South Asian women working to break stereotypical notions of what an ‘Indian Woman’ is and what she looks like as depicted in the past, as well as notions the western world may hold, and while she does agree with these efforts, she strives to “create a scene that shows women taking action.”

'Savitri' by Neha Kapil
'Savitri' by Neha Kapil

“I make paintings rooted in mythology because it tells a story of women doing things their way and being powerful. So much of history in Indian mythology is about men fighting epic battles, but you don’t hear enough about HERstory. I want to show examples from our past to prove that not all traditionally depicted women are weak, shy, or whatever other stereotypes give us negative sentiments about who we are as Indian women today,” she writes. “The point is that there are stories to be told that show action, not just questions about beauty captured in a single way. Whether this power comes through women defeating men by trickery, using seduction to get what they want, or going as far as killing men, these stories all show women having the upper hand, which if you ask me, defies stereotypes just as much as being a ‘rebel’ or changing up our looks.”

Each of Kapil’s paintings are accompanied by a story of the scenes she recreates as well as the original paintings she reworks. You can view Kapil’s Desi remix series here and more of her work on her website.

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