Poornima Sukumar is one of the founding members of Aravani Art Project, a project that uses public space and art to address gender inequality across India. She is a muralist, artist, illustrator, and documentary photographer who also loves to travel and teach.
With work that takes her to different parts of the world, Poornima makes optimum use of her opportunities to discuss issues concerning the welfare of children, women, and the transgender community, and also uses her art to raise social awareness.
She tells us all about her career in art, and the feminist in everyone.
Being Feminist – A Creative Twist
There is a feminist in everybody that needs awakening. Granted, there have been real challenges and serious repercussions for simply being a woman, but we have had some gorgeous women in the past breaking myths and stereotypes. It is a culmination of all those souls and their strength that today, we are able to fight for something that has been manipulated for decades.
In recent times, due to the ease in accessing information and social media as a platform, there have been some experimental twists and takes on how women have found ways to vocalise, express, and create a shift in the way we all think.
Admittedly, it has created waves of revolution, but my heart as an artist lies with the ones who have been fearless feminists – the ones who make no hue and cry but take it in their stride, part of their everyday lives. It is in those women that I see the will to do almost anything to feel equal – not to prove to anyone else, but for themselves.
It was during my unplanned, free-spirited, and extensive travels, when I realised the true meaning of being a ‘feminist’. One needn’t become a feminist because it has always existed within oneself.
Having realised that wall art was my medium, it let me think louder than myself. It was a revelation to me; I chose it as much as it chose me. It enabled me to reach out to various communities and have conversations for hours about doing odd jobs as an artist. A combination of travel and art has made me person I am today. I found comfort in the laps of so many strong women in my life to whom I stay connected like the roots of a tree.
Ever since my early childhood days, I was inclined towards art, even though I was in a generation where everyone either wanted to be engineers or doctors. Little did I know, there was a farfetched career option in art. My career in art was accidental; I’d walked into Chitrakala Parishath to find myself a hobby but left with a degree in Fine Arts. At the time, my parents encouraged me even though they were as unsure as I.
During my time at Chitrakala, I gained a lot of insight about art itself, and also realised that my heart could never be in one place. That was (and still is) my strength, as I experiment with art in fields like education, photography, filmmaking, theatre, design, anthropology, wellness, social causes, and travel.
As a practicing muralist, I encourage public intervention through wall-painting which enables the participation of marginalised communities and creates awareness. Through Aravani Art Project, we embrace the transgender community and other marginalised demographics by creating consciousness, well-being, and social inclusion in India and beyond.
As an artist, I’m constantly curious and keen to meet women who lead projects that bring change, and intertwine their cause with a form of art to bring in a sense of community and reclamation.
After years of working with the transgender community, I cannot help but find a strong connection with the spirit of women in them. The body is obsolete; their struggles and stories are real, and being able to spend time with them as friends is the best experience.
I am still so moved by their struggles and journeys in overcoming their miseries every day, just to be true to how they feel. It motivates me to see the positive impact of their existence, and their boldness to stand up against the rest of us. To me, this has been possible because of art – the small interventions that make me confident to approach different women I meet.
We want to thank Poornima for sharing her thoughts and would like to mention her wonderful team, Sadhna Prasad (Art Director), Viktor Baskin (Writer and Producer), Shanthi, Sonu and Priyanka.
Creatively Feminist is a project aimed at exploring feminism in the context of creative industries. We seek to understand how notions of identity, gender, orientation and sexuality are represented in the performing and visual arts. We also hope to have a more comprehensive insight into feminism and equal opportunity in creative professions, by engaging with stakeholders and artists from a diverse range of disciplines.