The mainstream conversation on patriarchy has found voice in a new community – those who are making art around it. From questioning stereotypes, to sharing how women feel and stake claim to their desires and needs, Instagram artists are creating it all. We pick five young male and women artists who are demanding independence from patriarchy.

1. Aastha Sahdev (@aasthapastaa)

27-year old Aastha, based out of Gurugram, has been walking around with a drawing pencil in her hand since she was only two and a half years old. Never being able to “colour inside the lines,” she has always believed in “creating outside the box.” Her art is bold and bright, and she describes it as  being “quirky with a subtle message.”

Aastha, who often depicts women in sarees with a cigarette dangling between their fingers says, “It is a common ideology of considering a woman in traditional attire to be more homely or accommodating… my art is trying to break that stereotype. When a woman drinks or smokes, her character is questioned. If a man does it – it’s just his health that’s a concern.”

She shares how her work is equally loved by men. “My artwork titled ‘men can cry‘ was shared by so many men with heartfelt captions, mentioning how subconsciously they have been subjected to gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity.” She adds, “that if my art is contributing to making even one person’s life better or giving someone the courage to be themselves, fearlessly, I am a successful artist.”

Also Read: 30 Women Artists Paint Bihar Train In Madhubani Art

2. Titiksha Mehta (@titiksha_mehta)

 23-year old Titiksha is a fashion design student from Milan who is currently in India. Her sombre artwork featuring women and women’s clothes consists of muted colours that campaign against patriarchy.

The women in her art wear beautiful, earthy sarees, which Titiksha says is inspired by the women in her life. “I have grown up around so many women in my life, especially my mother who loves wearing sarees. And she owns it – she can basically do anything in it. It is our traditional wear, and women are going everywhere in the world with it. That’s why I love illustrating sarees – something about it is just so powerful. But what matters is whatever clothes people feel comfortable in – now whether that’s a saree or a bikini. Through my art, I want to normalise these things. I want to draw women in all sizes and colours.”

Her drawings cover everything from lesbianism to women just relaxing, but these women in her drawings are usually faceless – why? “They don’t need an expression because they are an expression in themselves. As women, you may not have a lot of things on your face, but a thousand things in your head.” She has a little over 1.1K followers on Instagram, but wants to keep doing art “for people to connect to. Because when you connect to a stranger through art, it’s wonderful.”

3. Manal Mirza (@manal_mirza_)

Manal is our sister from across the border in Pakistan, who is currently based out of Chicago. Though she finds inspiration in traditional miniature paintings, she says fashion designer “Sabyasachi and their campaign photos are also a huge inspiration.” So why did she choose to draw desi women in particular? “I think we don’t see enough representation and also its something I relate to the most because its what I identify myself as. A lot of us are going through the same thing, regardless of skin tone, ethnicity and race.”

Her art often features hijab-clad women against sassy dialogue boxes and stereotype-shattering messages. She hopes her art gives freedom to them to “to be more open with themselves, to cherish who they are, and speak out.”

She says Indians and Pakistanis have a lot in common, which is why social media users who follow her designs “whether they are 1st or 3rd generation… are able to relate to them and cherish it as their culture as well. There are so many bridges that connect us even without considering my art. We’re more alike than different.” 

Also Read: India’s Women Artists: Aarti Sunder Weaving Self-Reflexivity Into Art

4. Ayush Kalra (@ayushkalra)

Since feminism is a movement that has allies in all genders, it’s heartening to see even male digital artists contributing their art to the movement of women’s freedom from inequality. Ayush’s work catches the eye with its patterns, colours, intricate designs, and of course, emancipated women. He draws inspiration from legendary artists like Amrita Sher-Gil and Raja Ravi Verma, and true to their legacy, features emancipatory captions on his art like – ‘There is no weight limit on beauty,’ or ‘Her clothes do not determine her consent.’ 

How is he helping other people find independence through his art? “My work is reaching out to the audience and getting a good feedback. Independence begins when you start making your own choices, not blindly following what society says.”

Also Read: Mithila Artists Are Putting Their Skills To Use By Making Masks Now

5. Gaurav Thakur (@artby_gt)

25-year old Gaurav, who is a freelance graphic designer and a NIFT Delhi graduate features coloured and fair women in sarees and lehengas, with snappy one-liners that defy all gender norms. “My idea of feminism is equality, it must address the issues of all the genders and all sexual orientations.”

He says he especially loves and is inspired by actor-singer Rihanna because “she isn’t afraid of experimenting.” But a large part of his digital art is inspired by real women. He says, “I’m surrounded by really strong and hardworking women, like my mother, my female friends and we have such great female role models. They all are my inspirations.”

Gaurav believes that “art is one of the greatest forms of expression,” and evidently, so do his fellow artists. The work they’re all doing is a new medium of art protest altogether – one that transgresses boundaries of gender, class, culture, nationality. Because art always does, and it is the first step towards bringing freedom to the world.

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