No denying, all women, at some point in life, have had a tryst with Indian Sanskaar and we know where it pinches. SheThePeople.TV caught up with a New York-based artist Samyukta Madhu aka Sam Madhu (handle sam_madhu) over a candid chat and talked about her artwork that celebrates the intimidating boldness in every new-age woman. Her work represents the modern Indian women talking about sexuality, booze, and drugs – topics that are labelled as taboo in India, even today, especially when you are a woman.
Some excerpts from the conversation:
“I was born and raised in Chennai. I only went to one school and I never lived anywhere else till I moved to New York. My childhood was very dreamy and relaxed, and I was unconcerned about anything and everything. I lived only to scribble on the Wacom tablet after school. But I have been drawing since I was born. My mother enrolled me in an art class when I was old enough to grasp a pen. The need to make art never left me,” says a quirky Sam.
“I’ve always loved art and making art. I don’t think I ever became an artist, I think I was born an artist” – Sam Madhu.
Sam steely says, “When we talk about ‘why’ I made the art – there is no reason.”
And adds, “When I started making art, I didn’t really have any intentions. I found myself in certain melancholic but humorous situations, on a daily basis, and art was my outlet to document these feelings and experiences. When I found myself feeling lonely on a Friday night, I wanted to draw my situation because I had a feeling that someone out there might be going through the same experience as me.”
Shattering taboos through art
She says, “I had an image in my head of a powerful, striking woman and I simply brought it to life. Sure, she was inspired by the everyday strife and difficulties faced by the Indian woman. However, every single person interprets their own meaning when they look at my art, it means different things to many of them. What made me really happy was that my art evoked a feeling of power, rebellion and independence in many women, and although this was what I hoped, I didn’t think it would take off on such a huge scale. It was a welcome surprise.”
Breaking The Glass Ceiling
What started with an idea, now reached out to the hearts of every brown woman who fights misogynistic Indian rules. Her artwork even teases societal concepts of perfection and beauty standards. Sam acknowledges that,
“The single brown woman of today has many challenges before her. She is at the dawn of a new age of acceptance and equality. She needs to fight to push the society forward. Many people will tell her that there are things she can’t do, must not do and shouldn’t do. But she needs to listen to herself and keep pushing till she breaks the glass ceiling. She needs to educate others and stand her ground. She needs to prove herself and be more ambitious than anyone next to her. She needs to treat herself like a winner and a leader because she isn’t anything less than that.”
“People will laugh and sneer and abuse her, but she must keep fighting till she has no fight to give. It will be scary, but she needs to fight for herself because no one else will.”
Response and Reception
An ecstatic Sam said, “The reaction has been tremendous. One of my posts went viral, and in a week I went from 900 followers to 13,000 followers. Little did I know that the reaction would be this overwhelming – I’m humbled to think that my art, which comes from a very raw and honest place, resonated so deeply with so many people. I think people see themselves in my scribbles and drawings, and that’s more than I could have ever asked for.”
“I think people want to see what has never been seen before and this is why my art resonates with an Indian audience.”
“I want to reach a stage in my career where I have agency, purely for existing on this earth.” Sam on her ambitions as an artist.
What was the biggest challenge Sam faced?
“I think I struggle with finding time to actually sit down and draw. When you work all day and save the weekends for friends, you don’t get too much time to be creative. The key is to make time for art every day, even if you lose sleep or miss out on events.”
Sam also told us what are some of the lessons she learnt from the project. “Not everyone is going to understand the message behind my art in a positive way. There are some bigots who need to be ignored if we as a society wish to move forward. I also have learned that I need to approach the Indian audience with more tact and diplomacy.”
More power to you Sam!
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