As India faces the challenge to educate its masses about the prevailing social and environmental issues along with the many taboos and social codes; activists, individuals, and non-governmental organisations are increasingly trying to sensitise people through different art expressions.
As soon as you enter the streets of Lodhi Colony in New Delhi, it is evident that the area is different from the rest of the city. Especially the streets between the famous Meharchand market and Khanna market in the colony, where buildings are painted with murals that represent diverse and complex themes such as the need to protect nature, origin of the world, life and death, among others.
Thanks to St+Art India Foundation, a non-profit organisation, that takes up projects to make art accessible to the public with their murals and installations infusing much-needed character and life into the dull walls and opening a gateway to the underlying social and cultural concerns in the country.
Project MAD (Murals and Doodles) by Raashi Raghunath is another such project in Mumbai (west India) where individuals paint creative recitals on city walls to brighten them up as well as to raise awareness about important social causes like gender equality, water conservation, and tree planting, amongst other deeper problems.
Street plays, fashion shows and more
Incidents of violence against the girl child, female feticides, and sex trafficking are not new to India, and according to UNICEF, a child under 10 is raped every 13 hours in the country.
In a bid to sensitise people, Connaught Place in Delhi recently witnessed a street play aimed at creating awareness around acid attack victims and the society’s treatment of survivors of such attacks.
Performed by Khanabadosh – a not-for-profit theatre group, the play titled Surat Dekhe, Sirat Nahi, attracted around 200 people and was dedicated to spreading awareness about the issue along with communicating the harsh reality of the victims.
Be it raising awareness about acid attacks or highlighting the plight of LGBT community, India has recently been choosing creative ways to talk about serious matters, and fashion shows are a major part of it.
The number of fashion shows for social causes in Uttarakhand (north India), doubled during the last year, as ‘walks for a cause’ are increasingly becoming an engaging way to talk of important, socially relevant issues.
A recent fashion show in Doon Valley in the state aimed at helping acid attack survivors by bringing them on the ramp to inject in them some confidence, to lead a normal life.
Another fashion walk in the valley witnessed the participation of slum children – some of which performed a play and a few of them walked the ramp. The show was not just a medium of spreading awareness about the problems faced by these kids but also a platform where the children could explore their creativity.
Comic heroes to the rescue
Even in the twenty-first century, myths and taboos around menstrual cycles have a hard skin in India.
Thus, to highlight the normality of menstruation and spread awareness about hygiene and related issues, ‘Menstrupedia’ – a comic for young Indian women, concretely illustrates everything about the female body, especially menstruation.
“When I had my first period, I was told to hide it from others, even my father and my brother. A few years later, at school, our biology teacher deliberately ignored the subject. At that age, around 13-14 years old, I learned to be ashamed of my body and to remain ignorant of its changes,” Aditi Gupta, who launched Menstrupedia in 2014, told MIG.
Though India does not lack initiatives to put an end to its social taboos and myths, the road to achieving social ‘freedom’ seems afar.