Following the first wave triggered by Raya Sarkar’s list, this past week, India’s #MeToo movement has been a messy and heartbreaking whirlwind of outing predatory and powerful men on social media. Although we now have a sure sign that the #MeToo movement is finally taking flight among the country’s urban youth, Indian feminists are only just getting started.
Social media has decentralised Indian feminism in that those who have access to internet services are exposed to a plethora of expressive voices speaking against patriarchal double standards, whether through art or otherwise. Feminist rhetoric is slowly changing hands from the upper caste, elite, highly educated, and well-spoken–– anyone and everyone with something to contribute can do so on social media. So, here’s where Charaswati comes in.
“I believe in using humour to challenge and dismantle the complexity of being a liberated Indian woman in today’s day and age. Art, to me, is an expression and not appreciation,” says Tarini Dixit, a Mumbai-based award-winning creative director and visual artist who goes by the artist name ‘Charaswati.’
Her artistic narratives are focused on social issues in India hoping to start simple conversations. Referencing women’s rights and the #MeToo movement, she says, “Why is it not a dinner table conversation? It’s not like girls don’t discuss it over drinks or in wash rooms. So, why shouldn’t we talk about it casually?” So, to normalise these everyday struggles of women, Tarini prints her art on items of regular use like rolling papers and roach books.
Calling her work “pocket bibles of ideology,” Tarini says that at the core of her products lies a melting pot of her political beliefs, aesthetics, ethics, and values. Her works are also completely ‘consumable’–– an intentional artistic choice. “Physical consumption of my belief gives me the greatest high as an artist,” she admits.
The medium of Tarini’s art is somewhat taboo as “roach book” and “rolling paper” makes one think of cigarettes and cannabis. A female artist embracing her feminine identity and receiving backlash for her irreverent, honest work isn’t surprising. But, what is it like to have an added layer of difficulty when presenting stigmatised narratives through already taboo mediums? “I generally get a lot of pushback. I don’t think people are up for having simple conversations like these... They don’t want to be so straight up,” Tarini says.
Tarini’s brand, ‘Charaswati’, is climbing in popularity as more and more people discover her narratives and art online and purchase them. Also, the best way to support local artists, especially those disrupting the status quo like Tarini, is to do the same – buy their work.
Feature image courtesy of Tarini Dixit, ‘Charaswati’
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