Nidhi Mariam Jacob, who specialises in botanical garden art, spoke out in a video about fashion brands that use the work of artists without permission and get away with it.

Nidhi sits with a hand on her chin, smiling in front of her artwork of botanical gardens
Features Controversry Saturday, July 02, 2022 - 18:38

At first, Nidhi Mariam Jacob did not take it seriously. This May, she was getting a lot of messages from her friends and well-wishers, telling her that they saw her art work on some other web page, on someone else’s clothing designs. Hers is not the kind of artwork you see and not remember, paintings that convert white pages to little worlds of fantasy, full of colours and flowers and bundles of nature. When she finally opened the Instagram page of the brand she’s been told about – Bobo Calcutta – Nidhi saw the jacket that had the botanical art designs on them, worn in a picture by actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan when she went to Cannes. Nidhi contacted Bobo and after a series of exchanges that didn’t go well, she put out a video on June 19, saying that her art work has been plagiarised, and this is not something new to artists. It was a fight of many artists, she said. The video has since been shared a lot, especially among the artist community.

In an interview with TNM, Nidhi, an artist based in Bengaluru, said that she was shocked, upset and had sleepless nights after the incident. “When I saw the (brand’s) page, I was too disheartened – it was down to the exact colour, the same kind of flower. I initially put out a story saying this is plagiarism and tagged the brand. Many people had shared the story. I also messaged them (Bobo) on Instagram saying that this is my work, and it is very obvious that they have chopped it up and used it for their embroidery. I got a reply within an hour from Ayushman Mitra, they call him Bobo. He said he was sorry, he respected people as artists but he got a little greedy, took my work and a few other artists’ work and his own to put it together. The thing is, he is known for making original paintings and transferring them to fabric. He is supposed to be a painter,” Nidhi says.

After a few messages, a new line was added on Bobo’s post, of the jacket – “inspired by Nidhi Jacob’s fantasy gardens.” The caption for the photos with this line was "Gardens of Infinite Bloom". Nidhi was not happy with the message. “I told him they should say ‘collaborated’ because they have taken my work and used it. I am not in it for the money but I want to make people aware that this happens in the fashion industry. The work of so many artisans is also taken and used by big brands without their permission or knowledge, and without offering any sort of payment,” she says.


Aishwarya wears the jacket / another jacket with the designs / From Bobo Calcutta's Instagram

When she shared that first Instagram story, a lot of people began to reshare it and some began calling Bobo a thief. “After this, he messaged me saying he is not a thief, he is an artist too. Then he backtracked on what he said earlier, saying that he also does flowers and nature paintings and this work was not copied from me. He accused me of looking for a scandal to get attention. I was getting really irritated, and at the same time, a number of artists were messaging me, asking what I am doing about it. They shared their own stories of struggle in similar incidents. I felt responsible, spoke to a lawyer. I realised that the case might take too long and I didn’t want any negative energy coming from it. It would hamper my creative process and upcoming projects and commitments.”

By then, the earlier credit Bobo had given her – as inspired by – was also removed, Nidhi said. In consultation with her lawyer, she took it up officially and wrote the brand an email. In it she said that she wanted a public apology wherever they had posted her work, and she wanted them to send money to a charity of her choice. She also asked them to either take down the work, or else credit her as a collaborator if they were keeping it.

Two weeks later, she received an email in which Bobo completely denied using her work and accused her of ‘harassing’ him. “He said something on the lines of nature and flowers being the inspirations and not my work; and that I had misconstrued his well-meaning message as an admission of guilt. After this, I felt really sick of this and I didn’t want to go for a case. I put out that video saying what happened, so I could be done with it and continue with my work.”

Watch: Nidhi speak out against plagiarism

 

 

Nidhi has been drawing since she was a child, and her fantasy garden series has been developed in a style she worked hard to find, she says. A lot of artists do botanical art, and it is not easy to carve your own space there. It took her six years to create that style, just so her work does not look like another’s.

Many artists have such stories of struggle to share, and few are aware of copyrights and intellectual properties. “As artists we are sensitive, and want to share our work. But now I am trying to get more information and put it out there and say this is how artists can protect their work,” she adds.

While TNM has contacted Bobo Calcutta on their social media, we have not yet received a response. The email written to the id on their Facebook page bounced back.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.