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Feminist notes through Indian history

Gup-Shup with Rucha G I Graphic Designer

Rucha, a final year graphic design student from MITID, Pune talks about her series "The Sisterhood Archives" and how essential is it to translate Feminist messages through Visuals.

How did the conception take place for The Sisterhood Archives?

A couple of my friends and I were making some merchandise for an event.

In general, the idea was to take up popular phrases, slogans in the feminist pop culture and kind of make artwork incorporating those. Initially it was supposed to be something that was just type based but I really wanted to take the phrases which would be relatable to a lot of people I know who still face some or the form of sexism and microaggressions.

Taking these empowering slogans and putting it together with the symbols of female empowerment in our context in India. Basically, putting it together with the people who brought about a lot of change in the country as a way to honor their work.

What is the concept and thought process like?

The entire process behind selecting the phrases and the icons was to see and make sure that

they both match each other in context. So again, I was drawing from typical experiences with my sister or my friends where we were talking about subtle sexist digs in corporate settings or moral policing in college environments.

So stuff like ‘Learn to Say No’ is something that’s not really taught to us and it kind of also ties back in with unpaid labour and emotional labour where certain tasks are just expected. Here it was basically having to take back your control over your agency. And I thought

okay who better to pair that phrase up with other than Durga. Any kind of slightly feminist

messaging in our culture like movies get immediately tied with her.

Similarly, Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule paved the way when it comes to education, discrimination and the likes. Of course, the context is a bit different for the phrase paired where it was originally used for reproductive rights.

But the changed phrasing still pairs well. I think for Pandita Ramabai it was so important that the phrase is empowering because her efforts included a lot of caste-based atrocities and calling out hypocrisy in the entire caste system, so she was just this fierce woman and it needed to suit her.

With all of this, it was important for me to make the entire thing light-hearted and positive and kind of tongue in cheek because even today people have such misconceptions when it comes to feminism.

And its really saddening when other women perpetuate the system. So, there’s some effort to inject humour with sarcasm and exasperation because in the end I think I just want people who wouldn’t usually take more than a cursory glance to get interested in the movement and be a bit more motivated either to learn more or just feel good about themselves for a moment, remind them that yes their voice does matter.

As an artist, how important do you think it is to translate such ideologies into a visual form? Do you agree that this helps people understand complex ideologies better?

Yes, definitely. I think it depends a lot on the piece in general.

Like you can translate these ideologies into informative art, explorations of cultures and self or even into propaganda. And even within these types there are myriads of combinations. So, it depends a lot on the intent behind it, you can educate, incentivize or agitate. So, it’s important for people to understand the intent for themselves as well and decide if the message is what they want to consume. I can’t really say how many people take up that effort and go ahead with the conversation but as an artist one definitely has the power to start and steer that conversation.

What were the Visual Influences for it?

I wanted to make it a bit of a mix of pop culture and traditional aesthetics. Honestly it was supposed to be really quirky and since it was a personal project, I thought to just have a lot of fun with it. For the typography and layout, I kind of mixed in matchbox art with modern patterns. The collage treatment was chosen because the images I used were something that we’ve all seen in our textbooks so it is easier to get that same recall value.

Your design style reflects Indian culture to a great extent, can you tell us where you take inspiration from?

It depends on the project mostly but yeah India’s visual history is so so rich. There are extremely

unique traditional art forms, cultural and even religious symbols which vary in depiction state by state. And even if you see the local typography, marketing visuals as such on everything around us –the small shops to thelas, old labels.

I feel like I definitely admire more of the vintage visuals of the country. There is so much to be learnt there. Its also important to be aware of any cultural implications of the same, so we also need to be respectful at the same time.

I was attending a lecture a few weeks ago where one of the speakers said a really great line – There is no such thing as a neutral visual language. All of our visuals are inherently derived from somewhere, some ideology. Its very important to know and understand what the history of that particular style is. Even I’m not sure if I was that mindful of the practice in my old work but its definitely something that I want to try and cultivate.

How was it received?

The reactions and outcomes are two-fold – some love it some definitely question it.

I honestly did not think people would care as much as they did. So, for me I’m mostly happy with however its received. Most of the intended audiences have appreciated it and shared their stories as well which tells me there was definitely a need for this kind of representation in a mainstream experience.

Commercially though it does poorly as people tend to react very strongly whenever imagery of gods is used in the country. But it’s okay because I never really thought that it would be super commercial and did not intend to make it that way.

The amount of recognition it has gotten still is quite big for me.

Gup-Shup with Rucha.G



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