You may have seen the haunting black silhouette drawings of missing girls on the walls of your cities. These are part of Leena Kejriwal’s works. Kejriwal — through her art project M.I.S.S.I.N.G — strives to raise awareness about sex trafficking and the state of girls who go missing after being sold into sex work.
An artist with a cause, Kejriwal has even come up with a videogame in Hindi and English. The game aims to leverage art and technology to create social change.
Her latest initiative is ‘MISSING on a Journey’. Members of her team have taken anti-trafficking messages on the road from Ranchi all the way to New Delhi, touching Patna, Benares, Allahabad, Lucknow, Agra, and Jaipur. They are conducting awareness sessions through street theatre, school talks and the MISSING Silhouette stencils. Kejriwal talks to us about her cause, and why she thinks technology can effect change.
How did you conceptualise the story for Missing: Game for a Cause ?
I discovered how games based on causes can make people realise and understand issues. The stories in the video game are based on real life stories. They are multiple stories which have come together.
Why do you think a videogame as a medium will be impactful for raising awareness?
Video games have a vital audience. Young people. Younger generation. Young boys are demand creators for trafficking, and have to be educated.
Playing the game takes you under the skin of the girl and makes you feel her frustration. Playing a game would make people feel responsible for the girl, more so than watching a movie about trafficking
The game puts the user in an uncomfortable and disturbing place — which is not usually the objective of a traditional video game. What response have you gotten from users?
We have got a lot of awareness through schools and NGOs, and among students and caregivers.
The game is part of the awareness drive. We give players follow-up questionnaires before and after. The gaming community has loved the game.
It is the only game that has been nominated from India for the ‘Game of the Year’ award in Berlin
What obstacles have you faced while trying to put up art installations ?
The public art made of iron and fibre glass. Every footpath is owned by someone, be it the Marine Drive Association, Nariman Drive Association etc. I have work that is still waiting to go up, and associations that are still waiting to happen. It is a struggle.
I hope the campaign becomes a part of a company’s corporate social responsibility.
Tell us a bit more about your story and your background. How did you get involved with art and photography?
I picked up the camera at the age of 35. Once I set off with my camera on the street, there was no turning back. I felt reborn. My city, Calcutta, is my muse.
Before long, I had veered into the public art, and that led me to the Missing Project.
What do you envision for the Missing project in future?
I would love to see silhouettes in the cities of India. The game is making the mission experiential, making stakeholders feel affected. I am studying behaviour patterns in the game along with a psychologist. Now, I hope to translate the game into 13 languages. I work at the grassroots level as well, actually working with girls who have been trafficked. I believe everyone has the right to make a difference.
Also Read: Indie Video Games, Women Gamers and Feminism
Picture Credit: Goodwill project