Rajni Perera’s Art Uses A Sci-fi Lens To Dissect Gender, Identity, & Cultural Politics

Natarajasana, Zahra2
Natarajasana, Zahra2Rajni Perera

When it comes to science fiction it's always men, war, territorial disputes, revenge or domination. And on the off chance that women or indigenous cultures are involved, the dystopian narrative never favours the feminine or marginalized; it doesn't even extend beyond our uteruses — either we can't have kids, or we don't want to but are forced into it like The Handmaid's Tale. Either the indigenous tribes can fight the robot-capitalists or get colonized. In fact, this is only the first time that I'm witnessing protagonized ethnic and ecofeminist themes represented in science fiction with painter and sculptor Rajni Perera's powerful characters.

Traveller, Chinnamasta
Traveller, ChinnamastaRajni Perera

Born in Sri Lanka in 1985, Rajni currently resides and works in Toronto. Her art delves into various themes, including hybridity, futurity, immigration identity, ancestorship, monsters, and dream worlds. These themes intertwine in a newly objectified realm of mythical symbioses. Through her creations, Perera aims to reveal the dynamism of the icons and objects she designs, which can be both scripturally existent, self-invented, and externally defined. Her work embodies an ethno-futuristic aesthetic that challenges outdated, oppressive discourse, becoming a transformative force that empowers individuals to reclaim their power.

Watch a short interview of the artist below.

Through diverse mediums such as painting, sculpture, and photography, Perera envisions mutated subjects in dystopian settings, drawing inspiration from Sri Lankan and Indian artistic traditions, medieval armor, and science fiction. Her body of work explores feminist and diasporic concepts while contemplating survival in an environmentally compromised future. Addressing existential threats, Rajni's art sparks hope, critique, and humor.

MOTO, Matryoshka with Golden Panties
MOTO, Matryoshka with Golden PantiesRajni Perera

From her first solo exhibition, (M)otherworld where she used monsters, dreamworlds, and mythmaking to negate the concept of the singular existence of immigrants to the post-imperialist capitalism of Beyond the Words of Earth, and Travellers speaking directly to issues of sovereignty, belonging, identity and personhood, to the reappropriated religious icons present, embodied and unbothered by spectators in The New Ethnography, Rajni is changing the dynamics of oppression with her subversive visual narratives that highlight cultural resilience.

Amma, Stacked
Amma, StackedRajni Perera
"We’ve all seen them — they’re these hyper-stereotypical web images of African girls in beads and wood, Japanese girls in kimonos, and Indian girls in saris; all very subservient, all very saleable; this is my point. There’s something for sale there. I am trying to take that thing — the downward glance of the Caucasian male spectator — and turn it on its head. Or at least sideways."
Rajni Perera on her graduating series, The New Ethnography (2011) for Squidface and the Meddler.

Follow Rajni's work on Instagram or her website.