A poet and an artist explore common themes

Poet Shobhana Kumar and artist Jitha Karthikeyan were strangers until they became neighbours. Over conversation, they discovered they were “kindred spirits”: for every painting that Jitha had created, Shobana had written a poem that uncannily fit. What was initially “spooky” grew into an exploration of similar ideas through different media. ‘Colours in Black and White’, an evening of art and poetry reading at Jitha’s ‘An Anthology of Voices’ exhibition in Contemplate Art Gallery, furthered that exploration. The session was moderated by architect Sanjeev Menon.

Jitha’s painting ‘She-Hunters’ opened the evening. Through bare-bodied men against a red backdrop, Jitha depicted the feeling of being constantly hunted by men. “Abuse is like child’s play for them,” explained Jitha. Shobhana wondered aloud whether any punishment, however severe, could avenge rape. “To turn on beast/like no beast before/ Avenge: ‘blank’,” concluded her poem Rape. Jitha’s ‘Unreserved Third Class’, and Shobhana’s An Eulogy for Remembrance navigated similar territory. While the canvas was choc-a-block with staring men, the poem narrated a rape victim’s fate outside media limelight.

Another painting-poem duo was Jitha’s ‘Crises of Belonging’ and Shobhana’s Between Black and White. The painting addressed the sense of belonging fishermen felt toward their waters. “It’s an internal feeling independent of material possessions,” said Jitha. “But what if you can’t find that sense of belonging even within?” asked Shobhana in a poem on transgenders' identity crisis.

In ‘The Lone Journey Called Life’ Jitha portrayed life as a lonely sojourn . Shobhana had a more cheerful take in My Will where she gifted her daughter her smile, her little one her dreams, her parents her memories, her friends her warmth, and her love ‘Nothing save freedom from everything/ that binds you to me’.

“Ninety-nine percent of us, never fulfil our dreams ,” explained Jitha of her crammed canvas of blank faces — ‘Those Who Missed the Dream’. Shobhana, in Stalk, wrote about the hurdles young adults in new urban contexts faced: “Before long, the sparkle in their eye is gone/Their dreams, buried over the heap/Of crumbled egos./Who cares about dreams anyway/Do dreams put food on the table?”

The theme of sexual abuse was revisited in Jitha’s ‘I’ve Seen Enough’. It painted a bedraggled child with a gentle pout, dishevelled hair and a smudged bindi. Shobhana layered the idea with I Died When I was Twelve: A Voice from Vachati written after news of a 32-year-old married woman, molested by a police officer as a child: “twenty years later,/justice they say, has come/but my blood is all dried,/my tears spent now./your justice cannot bring back/that twelve year old child,/who had not seen first blood/until you arrived.”