The Fearless Graffiti Project- Bahuchara and Ahmedabad

Presenting the Ahmedabad wall! 
The wall is inspired by the story of patron goddess of Gujarat- Bahuchara Mata who has an intense and fascinating story.
Story goes, that one day she was walking in the desert when she was followed by a group of men who started to attack her and grab at her body. 

In a quick and desperate moment, she cut off both breasts and handed it to them saying : 
"Here, you want these? Take them."
.
The gods who were watching this, were taken aback and made her a goddess and protector of women, as well as devi of the transgender community in India.

Interestingly enough, her vahaan is a bird, and it feels almost like once one steps 'beyond gender', one is free.

The affirmation here became: 'I am more than my body'


This wall was collaborative in the truest sense, there were three layers of interaction:
- Painting with traditional artisans from Natrani who were trained in vernacular gujarati mural styles
- Painting with local contemporary artists from the fearless collective like Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul of menstrupedia
and finally painting with the lovely kids of Usmanpura village, who had never picked up a paintbrush in their lives but had done so much mehendi that they had the finest line quality. 

It was painted on the household of well known activist, theatre person and artist Mallika Sarabhai, who also comes from a family of feminists and her own work includes delving into mythological ideas and making them contemporary. 






What's often wonderful about painting these walls, is that the process is as fearless as the outcome. We were out on ahmedabad streets, children, volunteers, families, all armed with buckets of paint in our hand till 3 am in the morning. Taking back the night, one brushstroke at a time. 

We also did a few street exhibitions of the posters and one in the beautiful 'Conflictorium' gallery space. One year later, the posters still find home in spaces around the world.

The Dream Universe of the Dewarists



The Dewarists Stage at the NH7 Weekender, Pune
Mapmaking Miniature Multiverses where stars hang low and hot air baloons blink their eyes at you. Giant metal 3d animal constellations, and an LED screen projecting star studded skies.



Earlier this year, the lovely people at OML decided to take a new approach to Art at a Music festival. Rather than having installations (like my Kabootar last year), what if each stage became a canvas for a different artist? There was Daku , Sameer KulavoorVaibhavi Kowshik and me. I got to do two stages- The Dewarists Arena, and it's sweet little hipster offshoot- The Other Stage.

My mother Nilofer Suleman started her journey into art as a Cartographer. She used to recreate these old Columbus era maps, and as a child, I'd spend hours watching her pour over them, creating rivers and mountains of ink with her fingers. 

 I think it's really here that both my fascination with travel and mapmaking began. And while her maps (and now her art) is very much inspired by the real world, and real streets, my maps were miniature magical multiverses, rooted only in the sky dome of the imagination. 

And so, I began to weave the Dream Universe of the Dewarists. The Dewarists is a show by Babble Fish productions that brings together musicians and artists from across the world to collaboratively create as they travel to different locations across India. Each episode is shot in a landmark building in a different inspired location, and for me that became the starting point of inspiration. I wanted to put down all these spaces that the Dewarists travelled to into one cohesive map. 
Here it is- the dream universe of the Dewarists, explained:

Capitol Cinema, Mumbai 
Apart from the building itself, it became about Bombay, the stones that crown Marine drive, the big red BEST buses.

Samode Palace, Rajasthan  


While Anoushka Shankar's marking on the map didn't get a building, she became a shrine of her own, and like the video it's all inkspills and flowers. 

Kaziranga was the next marking on the map, green layered tea terraces and forests and rhinos.

Shimla mountains and pinecones

the green apple fields and misty castles and breweries of Scotland

A Rose Compass
Because we all need some direction sometimes.

And a train to take us through it all. 


And that wasn't all. The larger idea was that behind this map of the Dewarists, would be animations of the sky that gave it a sense of movement and dynamism through the sets. 
And so I created over 40 animations that Activ8Media could use to VJ with. Here are gif versions of some of the animations. It was a beauty, The sun rose over the stage, rain clouds gathered as Shankar Tucker's band sang "Baadal barse", hot air baloons blinked their eyes at you, and when the sun set, the moon rose, constellations formed in the sky and lighthouses helped you find your way through churning seas. 






these are some of the many animations I created for the stage. 


40 animations, a 70 foot stage, 4 cities, over a hundred illustrations and 60 days of sleepless love later, it's all done. 
For me this has been a churning. A meditation in detail. 

How much detail could I find an appreciate in the show and it's music? how much detail and inspiration could I find in the sky? Each exact constellation was mapped out, windows drawn in exact proportion and placement of each building, each form was layered and gilded in gold. Having never drawn building's before, love's labour shone through. And this wasn't all, there was also another stage (details of that coming soon) and a lounge (that we didn't end up doing). Here's more from the process- 


Before I close this chapter, a burst of gratitude.
Thank you Vijay Nair, Vaibhavi, Srini (who handled the production of the stage), Dharam and the rest of the happy OML team and Nishant from Activ8media who did the Vjing.
Love
Shilo Shiv Suleman

A Something in a Summer's Day


"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees"
-Pablo Neruda

*bursts into flowers *

Summer is here. 
I think of Humming. The smell of Oranges, your hands, piano keys, swaying.
the wind, thirst, gold sun, remote controlled planes,  Paper cranes flying on little lights,
 rustling, verdant, the taste of plums. the sky is blue and it made me happy. 



It's been a season of festivals, I last left Bangalore in December having finished my 
Kabootar installation, went to Goa for Fullmoon new year cycles and onward to the Kumbh Mela (the worlds biggest and oldest festival) where I ran with Naga babas, painted walls in Benaras, and sat on the back of an enfield for 2 months(but more on that later).
The second I got back home, I was flown off like a sparrow to Bombay for 'A Summer's Day' headlined by Norah Jones with a week to spare, an installation to create and a suitcase full of oversized flowers. 

And it was beautiful. I've spent a lot of time and energy in the last few months following the 
Women's movement in India, I was at the protests on 21-12-12 in Delhi witnessing the angry mobs and cries for death penalties. Coming back home to this place/work/festival of beauty and of femininity was healing. And Rumi reminds me: 


-
and flowers I will grow.




Here Come's the Sun
and I say, it's allright. :)


The installation was inspired by the poem behind the name of the festival. Emily Dickinson's 
'A Something in a Summer's Day'. It was all abundant-feminine-whimsical Midsummer Night magic and pinwheels and peacocks and Alice in Wonderland oversized flowers. 
'Wordless tunes transcending ecstacy' 
Norah's stage was lit up with fairylights and floating paper cranes.
I managed to meet her and her cousin Gingger backstage over some mangos. All girls of summer. 



A very pleasant surprise was all the Bombay love I recieved. So so many people came up to me and said they'd been following my work, took photographs and more :) *blush *. If you are reading this: Thank you. Your love makes me happy. 






Pinwheels and stars inside guitars
and at night it glowed :) 

"We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That's fine with us. Every morning
We glow and in the evening we glow again.”

Uber special shoutout to Elena Periera who made all the flowers by hand, and Kirian Meili who came rushing in at midnight armed with staplers when I needed more flowers.

Also, behind every glowy installation is a group of happy boys and girls putting it up,
Thank you Vijay Nair and Dhruv Jagasia. Also you, Dharam and Ishan and Francis and Arlene. You are all amazing!
Ps- speaking of sunshine, I'm currently designing and drawing for an amazing app called Sunlight that reads your brainwaves while meditating and all kindsa crazy stuff. More on that later. x

What we Worship, We shall Become

"My feeling is that mythic forms reveal themselves 
gradually in the course of your life ,
if you know what they are 
and how to pay attention to their emergence'
-
'What we worship we shall become'  became a particularly important affirmation for me these last few months while travelling through the Kumbh. I once had a conversation in an old temple somewhere in the north with a Sadhu where I asked him "Why do men worship the goddesses on our walls, but rape the women in their homes?" and in his smokey haze he said to me  "When you(and women) see your own divinity and strength, all else will follow". At that point in my life, I felt like that was a very convenient thing to say. But perhaps there's truth in this, instead of waiting for patriarchy to liberate me, I'm making an active effort to liberate myself and reclaim my right to my body, to public space and to spirituality. 'Fearless' is one step towards that.




"By the time I reached my mid-twenties, I was thoroughly conditioned by masculine spirituality to believe that the feminine body is more than anything an inconvenient obstacle, and I didn’t want to use my energy on these earthly matters. I was seeking a transcended state of enlightenment. One day..it became apparent that there is no 'out of here', that what I had been seeking outside myself was (and is over and over) realized by opening to love, the love that is the very fabric of which I am made. This realization challenged me to embrace life in its totality, my body also being a manifestation of this same love, and it brought my awareness to the cycles happening around me and within. When I listened to these rhythms, new dimensions of awakening revealed themselves to me.
~Chameli Ardagh





Paintings walls in public spaces is an extremely symbolic way of reclaiming the streets, and being in Benaras- India's Hindu and Spiritual center, I felt like I wanted to leave my mark and message on the walls there. No permissions and buckets of paint, for 3 days I stood by the banks with some of the local kids jumping in to help.










While this wall was done without permission (save an OK from the Chaiwallah perched outside it), I was pleased to find that the tenants of that particular wall work with girls rights in particular.

Synchronistic. While painting this wall I also had a lot of interesting discussions/debates with locals there about women and violence in India.

Special Love and shoutouts to Suki Zoe, new friend and co-cosmic traveller through the Kumbh on diets of veggie juice and barfis, who has taken all these pictures (and many more)- more from her here - http://qito.co.uk/2013/02/06/shilo-shiv-suleman/


annnnd Avijit, who always carries my metaphorical and real ladders. Also special love to all the children in Benaras who painted with me, the parrot who sat beside me and more. Next time you're there- Go check out my wall near Vaatika Pizzeria at Assi ghat, on the same wall that says gangamahal ghat. :)




This one was painted for Kitsch Mandi's Neighbourhood festival and says  'The F-word- Feminist is not a bad or angry word, fearlessly reclaim the streets' It was inspired by conversations and articles by two friends Aarthi and Anisha.  While the Benaras wall is placed within the context of hindu-heartland, this wall is all urban. You can see it outside JNC college in Koramangala and it inspired this movement of women :  http://www.talkingcranes.com/In%20the%20news/the-importance-of-loitering
You can spend your life hoping that
when only you get rid of the fear,
when you are a little bit more enlightened,

when you have built up your self esteem, 
then...
then you will show up and give it all.


Or... you can get out of your own way,
make yourself available,
and bow down to the One who plays you.
Now.
~Chameli Ardagh