Artist Indu Antony installing her work at MAP
Artist Indu Antony installing her work at MAP

Bengaluru artist offers a peek into women’s lives in Lingarajapuram’s slums

Indu Antony’s art show, created in collaboration with women from the slums of Bengaluru's Lingarajapuram, explores questions around mental health, care work, and a shared space for healing together.

“When I opened Namma Katte, well-wishers asked me to put up pictures of gods on the walls, but I did not want to. Some asked me to at least put up Puneeth Rajkumar’s picture. But I installed a mirror instead so that people who visit can look at themselves and be their truest selves,” says Indu Antony, artist-in-residence at Mindscapes and founder of Namma Katte. Located at Lingarajapuram, Namma Katte is a one of its kind leisure centre for women that was opened during the pandemic. Here, women come to do what they are seldom allowed to do — nothing. It is also the venue of the first instalment of Indu’s art show ‘Mindscapes: In the company of others’.

Spread over three locations in the city, the art show was created in collaboration with women from the slums of Lingarajapuram. Indu’s art explores various themes like mental health, care work, and a shared space for healing together.

Namma Katte

When you enter Namma Katte, you will be welcomed by sculptures of multiple ears made out of clay. A part of Indu’s art show, the ears were made by the women of Lingarajapuram’s slums. Explaining the significance behind the sculptures, Indu says, “The ears are a testament to the stories that we have shared here and show that our stories will be listened to. The women who come here found a lot of unity in sharing these stories. There was a sense of camaraderie in coming together to share these stories because they realised that they did not have to suffer by themselves. Their pain was reduced a lot.”

Ears made out of clay by women at Namma Katte in Lingarajapuram. 

Namma Katte is not just a safe space for women’s stories but has stories of its own. Opening a leisure space exclusively for women in a place that formerly used to be a mechanic shop came with its challenges. From the woman who made close to 100 ears exhibited at the show in exchange for money to bail her husband, to the man from the neighbourhood who burnt a cloth that was featured in the space, Namma Katte is home to a myriad of stories. It was later revealed that the cloth burnt by the man was a part of a project where women had come together to stitch several pieces of fabric together. On it, the problems, ranging from domestic violence to scarcity of resources, that they faced were also stitched. This angered the man because he had featured on it and felt that personal matters had been shared. This was a sentiment that many men in the neighbourhood shared, Indu says.

Kanike

A five minute walk from Namma Katte leads you to the venue for the second instalment of the exhibition — Kanike, a studio co-founded by Indu along with photographer Vivek Muthuramalingam. While the first instalment was close to the lives of the women in Lingarajapuram and closely associated with sisterhood and shared camaraderie, the second one was diametrically opposite. The second instalment featured pictures of people who were excommunicated from their respective churches in Kerala for various reasons. Except, their faces are not visible. The viewers can only see a faint silhouette of the people because the pictures are placed facing the wall. With this powerful installation, Indu asks a pertinent question — should the potential circumstances of your death and burial dictate your life?

Photographs of the people who were excommunicated from churches in Kerala. Installed at Kanike.

People who are excommunicated from their churches are not buried in the church’s cemetery but in a themmadi kuzhi (loosely translates to bastard’s grave) without any rituals. A person can be excommunicated for several reasons, including marrying outside one’s community, dying by suicide, or even disobeying the church, among others.

For Indu, two incidents inspired this installation. One of her close relatives who died by suicide was not given a burial in their church and rituals were not performed during the burial. Indu was also one among the many on the streets protesting the acquittal of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the head of a catholic diocese in Punjab's Jalandhar who was accused of raping a nun in Kerala. However, Indu's parents received a call from the church saying that their daughter would be excommunicated if she did not stop her protests. With this installation, Indu also questions why people who love and live differently from prescribed social mores are punished even in their death.

Museum of Art and Photography (MAP)

The final installation of Indu’s art show was located at the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), Bengaluru. Collaborating once again with the women from the slums of Lingarajapuram, the final part of the exhibition stands as a testament to the double marginalisation that these women experience. Titled ‘Thanni illama epdi ratham kaluvurathu?’ (translates to ‘How can I wash blood without water?’), the final installation documents the water scarcity in the city and how it is the women in the margins who bear the brunt of it.

 
Glazed ceramic pots featuring pictures of women and their experience with water scarcity. Installed at MAP.

Speaking about what inspired this installation, Indu said that a woman had come to Namma Katte once, bleeding from her face. Indu told her, “Vaa ratham kaluvulam” (translates to ‘Come, let’s wash the blood), to which the woman responded, “Thanni illama epdi ratham kaluvurathu?” Speaking to TNM, Indu says, “The woman was hit by her brother. She told me that there was no water at her house and will have to wait for the water lorry to get water to wash off the blood.”

The final installation features 30 glazed ceramic pots with the pictures of different women from Lingarajapuram, with a sentence each about their experiences of the water scarcity in the city. Indu said that she made 30 pots because 30 women protested against the water scarcity in the city three years ago and blocked a flyover to get the attention of the authorities.


One of the women from Lingarajapuram posing for a picture near their name on a wall at MAP.

When Indu’s exhibition was inaugurated on April 20, it was a celebration in part of Lingarajapuram too. Women and children dressed in their finest clothes excitedly crowded outside Namma Katte. The men were unsurprisingly absent. Walking through the exhibition along with Indu, the women and children made their way to the MAP where they experienced the art that they are a part of. Smiles adorned the room as the women had their pictures clicked next to their names printed on the wall of the display room.

Indu Antony’s exhibition is open to the public for free of cost. The installation in Kanike is open till May 30 while the one at the MAP is open till August 6. A walkthrough of all the exhibits is taking place on May 20 at 5 pm at the MAP. 

The News Minute
www.thenewsminute.com