Art of being different

Kalki Subramaniam with her paintings Photo: Anne Line Siegler   | Photo Credit: Anne Line Siegler

Kalki Subramaniam straddles many worlds with ease. She is a gender rights activist, writer, poet, motivational speaker, actor, documentary filmmaker, entrepreneur and now, an artist too. Through her thoughts, actions and never-say-die attitude to life and the many adversaries that have come her way on account of her decision to live as a transwoman, Kalki has transformed herself into a role model for the transgender community, many of whom still live a marginalised existence on the fringes of society.

“I am not out to prove anything. I just want to do something creative with my time to highlight the cause of transgenders. The drive to don many hats, to speak up through creative expression, come from the love and acceptance my parents, Subramaniam and Rajamani, have given me. It’s that strength and support that allows me to follow my dreams, to break barriers. We have so much positive things to contribute to society. Imagine what all we could do if all transgenders had a support system like that,” says Kalki, founder of Sahodari Foundation, an initiative that works to better the life of transgenders in the country.

The elegant, eloquent transwoman is also the author of hard-hitting Tamil poetry anthology Kuri Aruthean (Phallus, I Cut) and lead actor of Tamil film Narthaki, a coming-of-age tale of a transgender person.

Kalki is in the city for her debut exhibition as an artist. “I don’t look at art as a profession; it is a medium to express my fear, anguish, desire and struggles of being a transgender,” she says.

Right from her childhood days, art and writing was what she turned to in those anguish filled days as a young boy growing up in Pollachi, struggling with gender identity. “Art and writing became a part of my healing process; they still heal me from the wounds of the past: love, betrayal, exploitation, expectation…” she says. “When I paint, I feel as if I myself am flowing into the canvas, caught in the rhythm of the colours as the brush moves unbridled on the canvas. Art is a reflection of my deep self, raw and colourful. It mirrors my journey as a transwoman. It is purely an orgasmic and divine experience for me. It’s the same when I write,” she adds.

Being one of the main campaigners behind the Supreme Court’s verdict legalising transgender as the third sex, Kalki can’t but turn the conversation to society’s changing attitudes towards transgenders, particularly Kerala Government’s first-of-its-kind transgender policy that envisages an end to societal stigma and discrimination against sexual minorities. “Things have changed drastically to when I was first invited to Kerala in 2008 (at Feroke College, no less) to talk about the issue. It’s with much pride that I say that the LGBT movement is on the rise. Pride walks have been helpful and the media quite sensitive to the issue. We’ve a long way to go and hopefully the new government here will continue with the cause,” she says.

Fragments of self

Kalki’s solo exhibition, ‘Piece by Piece – Art for Human Rights’, curated by Latha Kurien Rajeev of La Gallery 360, is on at the Art Gallery, Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum. On display are 12 of her paintings – nine acrylics and three watercolours. “I never intended to display my paintings. On my last visit to the city, Latha happened to attend a reading session of my poetry. We immediately connected and before I knew it I agreed to hold an exhibition of my works and that too in two months! I was nervous about finishing on time but the art just flowed from me onto the canvas,” says Kalki, calling Van Gogh, Picasso, Frieda Kahlo, M.F. Hussain, Voka, among others, as her “inspirations.” The exhibition is on till June 15. Next time, she doesn’t intend to limit her artistic endeavours to just paintings. “I want to use my body – the centre of my struggle with identity – as a canvas,” she says.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2021 2:53:50 AM |

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