Women on a Ledge – Illustrated Feminist Identities from India

  • Abstract:

    Feminism, as documented and theorized in western history, is often said to have its early beginnings in the second half of the 19th century as an important paradigm of social reform. Given the rich history of visual culture and arts in India; to trace the development and transformation of local and contemporary Indian art forms, especially illustration, offers a unique avenue to discuss the on-going relevance of this form as a mode of expression in the context of gender, specifically the “female”. This paper traces and examines the history of the image in India through ongoing culture shifts in the contemporary times while also talking about the author’s personal history and briefly how it shaped her work. It then, examines the work of select Indian women image-makers and illustrators in contemporary times through interviews with them. Through these conversations, there is a similitude in thought and expression drawn about the female imagery as represented in the now, and how the stylistic and thematic forms have evolved and responded to the on-going shifts in cultures and politics of body, personal expression, and identity. What is a “desirable” female image? Who is promoting the female image? Why do these women subvert, shift, and negotiate female imagery? What is their imagery in response to? These are some of the questions the paper will investigate. It will also try and extrapolate the shifts in visual culture and the socio-political framework within which these illustrators operate, to express themselves, but always with an emergent feminist voice.