The event titled Artemisia began on Women’s Day and will end on March 11 in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sajitha Sankar in dark blue kurtha paints on a canvas as other women look onSajitha Sankar at Artemisia
Features Art Thursday, March 10, 2022 - 14:17

It might have been unplanned but most of the paintings kept on a table at the Koothambalam have shades of red screaming out of them. An orange red horizon facing a girl in a pink flowing skirt, the redness of a day meeting the grey blue of the night, another little girl surrounded by red strokes of a hastily moving brush, and a fourth painting showing dark silhouettes of people against fire-like red. Ten such paintings prominently placed among works of 20 known women artists are by survivors of sexual assault. At the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan’s Koothambalam, in Thiruvananthapuram, the women are holding an art exhibition under the title of Artemisia.

“There is a reason the art exhibition as well as the cultural events held in association with fall are called Artemisia. It is the name of an artist who lived in 16th and 17th century Italy (Artemisia Gentileschi), and got sexually assaulted by friends of her father,” says Deepa Chandran Ram, one of the artists taking part in the exhibition and the coordinator of the show. 

Girl survivors of the exhibition have similar stories to tell. "These are girls staying at the woman and child homes of the state government, which comes under the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society. They are from the lowermost strata of the society. Many of them have reached there after they were abused by close relatives. Problem is, when they are finally ready to move back home, they go with these labels, this stigma of having been abused once. And they come back with more stories of abuse because people think they can do whatever they want with a girl who was once abused," says Arathy, treasurer of the Artemisia Society of Inclusion and  Equity that's organising the event. 

Paintings by survivors of sexual assault

Realising how important it was for the girls to be financially independent, the newly launched Society decided to train the girls for a vocation and help them market the products they make with the help of a portal. "That's why we are doing the first of these events, as a way to raise funds for the girls and to get their businesses running," Arathy adds. The proceeds from the event will go for the welfare of the girls.



Women artists from across the state joined the cause with their paintings. Many of the paintings tell stories of women, some more explicitly than others. The painting by Anju VS shows the glowing face of a woman among twigs and coloured leaves. Shuni Sudheer’s is a painting within a painting of a girl with a cat looking down at many more outside of the frame. Leena Joshyvas’s painting is intriguing, the face of a woman almost hidden among a row of branches.

Painting by Anju VS

"When done by women artists, naturally it will have an element of women empowerment," Deepa says.

Paintings by Sunu Thomas and Padma Ramachandran

Sunu Thomas and Padma Ramchandran have painted full length portraits of women in Saris, lost in thought. Shailaha PJ’s portrait is of an older woman, beautifully wrinkled. At the centre of it all, next to the table of paintings by sexual assault survivors is the longest work of all – layers of grey dunes with a few strong labels, ending with ‘Patriarchy’. It is the work of Sajitha R Sankar, who also inaugurated the exhibition on March 8, Women’s Day.

Painting by Sajitha Sankar

The other artists include Alica Mahamudra, Dodsy Antony, Latha Devi NB, Mothy, Pushpa Pillai, Reshmi Sreedhar, Sabitha Hadannappally, Santhi Jaya, Savithri Rajeevan, Subha S Nath and Victoria AM.

The event as a whole (art and cultural show) was inaugurated by Speaker MB Rajesh while Minister R Bindu launched the Artemisia Society of Inclusion and  Equity. The Society, an NGO, will work on the concepts of inclusion and equity. The first series of events will be aimed at the welfare of the survivors of sexual harassment.

Deepa next to her painting

“This whole event is dedicated to survivors of sexual assault and proceeds from it will go for their well-being. There will be more events in the future. When done by women artists, naturally it will have an element of women empowerment,” Deepa adds. The event ends on March 11.

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