Fearless started on a december afternoon as a spark of 2 posters I made for myself, and a conversation with Laila Vaziralli of Kitsch Mandi who fueled the flame.
I was at the protests for Nirbhaya in Delhi following the gang rape, I was exhausted. I'd shared every media article on every horrifying rape story, had endless conversations with people about masculinities and gender roles. I felt helpless, but what I was most tired of was people telling me I needed to be afraid.
I found myself afraid of taking buses, taking autos, taking any public transport. I was afraid of the streets, and I was afraid and deeply mistrustful of any man unfamiliar to me. And people would fuel that fear, they would tell me not to drive my own car home, not to wear anything too attractive, to not talk to strangers, to not be out at night. I was tired of hearing politicians have foot in mouth moments, I was tired of being afraid. And the media followed suit, with more fear mongering and sensationalism
While I felt like these articles needed to be shared, these stories needed to be heard, I also felt like Fear is counterproductive to the larger change that India needs to see, the more women reclaim the streets and the more men that support that: the stronger we are.
As long as we cower away hiding at home, nothing will ever change.
We need to keep going out at night, taking public transport, wearing what we want, dancing, singing, being beautiful and reclaiming the streets.
I put up a poster on facebook to reaffirm this just to myself. I wanted to remind myself that I never asked for it, no matter how skimpy my clothes, or how late at night. This was the first poster I made.
Followed by this one, inspired by a night when me and some friends went out dancing in Sarees and were asked if we were prostitutes in one of Bangalore's biggest clubs, and it felt like regardless of whether I wore traditional indian clothing or a "miniskirt", my dancing would always be looked at as enticement. I wanted to reaffirm for myself that I would keep on dancing because I danced for myself.
Laila said she'd put them up at a Kitsch Mandi event, and in one conversation I decided on whim to put up a 'Call for Posters' on facebook.
Little did I know what was going to follow. Close to 300 posters and around 200 artists across India with exhibitions all around the country (and world)
It became a way for Artists across India and the world to reaffirm Fearlessness and Feminine Courage in a world that was looking rather bleak with floods of stories about how one could potentially get sexually harrassed and raped anytime and anywhere. And it's been beautiful.
Here are some of the posters :
by Aarti Chawda
by Nayantara Sarah Surendranath
by Taaneya Balaji and Maheshwari Janarthan
by Abhishek Choudhry
and what's amazing to me is that apart from the posters being beautiful, so many of them came with long emails and stories, women who after seeing the posters felt like they needed to take action against people who had abused them, people who realized how contagious fear can be, discussions on what Indian-Culture is. It's become a growing movement of artists who are using their voices and social media to send out positive affirmations. Moreover, the campaign doesn't attempt to change the world as much as it attempts to change the self, and in that lies the truth.
You can read some of my favourite stories on the facebook page and see all the posters: www.bit.ly/thefearless
In the last few months, I've also travelled around the country taking the campaign to the streets:
In Delhi we were all over One Billion Rising:
thanks to Preethi Herman and Change.org
In Bombay we were at the Norah Jones' Summers Day festival thanks to OML
In Bangalore we were all over the streets at Kitsch Mandi's Neighbourhood festival
(our biggest partner to date)
and in Singapore we were exhibited by MadderMoon Gallery who also hosted Poetry Jams,
Live art and more inspired by Fearless!
And more and more and more. And running the campaign has been a challenge, all my fears came pouring out, test after test the universe sent at me, but more on that later.
There's a lot been said about the Art of Asking, but I want to spend a moment
saying something about the beauty of receiving. All I did was put out a small small request on facebook for posters, but what I received was SO much more glorious than anything I could have ever imagined or dreamt of. It's been humbling to see how many illustrators, non artists and men and women alike have come forward and contributed. I am grateful. I am grateful and yes, I am fearless.