Photoseries 'Malini' Is A Visual Recreation Of Vintage Indian Matchbook Art

The Matchbox Series: Malini
The Matchbox Series: MaliniBhargavi Sridharan

Matchboxes have held a cherished position in India's cultural iconography. These miniature 5x3.5 cm canvases adorned with vibrant colours, bold typography, still-life elements, and token characters vividly depict various aspects of Indian life. Found ubiquitously, these matchboxes grace the bustling streets, local bakeries, prayer rooms, and even slightly disheveled matchbox collections in relationships.

In their photo series, 'The Matchbox Series: Malini', Samyukhtha Sunil, a writer, creative consultant, and podcast host, and Bhargavi Sridharan, a photographer, videographer, and mixed media artist, delve into the vintage matchbox art of India, particularly those featuring human characters. Matchbox Malini emerges as a composite of feminine personalities found in Indian women — she holds secrets, gossip, and clandestine stories, preserving memories of lovers' breakdowns, grandmothers' prayers, and the agonizing sighs of burnt-out colleagues. Despite her knowledge, Malini remains a mysterious urban legend, never revealing enough.

With a blend of portraiture and design, Samyukhtha and Bhargavi breathe life into the captivating world of Matchbox Malini. Through their collaboration, they explore India's rich cultural history and celebrate the artistry and visual observations found within these matchbox covers. Each photograph in the series becomes a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of Indian life, with Matchbox Malini symbolizing the profound connections and memories that these unassuming matchboxes hold.

The Matchbox Series: Malini not only captures the essence of Indian matchbox art but also pays homage to the historical and cultural significance of this simple yet powerful canvas. From the chai and sutta sessions at local bakeries to the spiritual moments within prayer rooms, the matchbox art mirrors the diversity and depth of India's social fabric. Through this extraordinary photo series, Samyukhtha and Bhargavi beautifully demonstrate that the essence of India can indeed be found in something as seemingly ordinary as a matchbox, making us realize that art can be a portal to the soul of a nation.

Follow Samyuktha here and Bhargavi here.

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