Over the past few days, a campaign on social media has gone viral with women posting photos of themselves holding a poster that reads “happy to bleed”. This campaign was in response to a comment by a temple chief that rose the debate about allowing women who are menstruating to enter temples. The comment has opened up a debate on gender equality online and on Tuesday evening in the Capital, an exhibition of artwork by German artist Katharina Kakar was inaugurated that deals with gender issues facing Indian society and seeks to further carry forward the debate of gender equality inside the walls of the gallery and outside as well.
Katharina says that through her installation titled 'Crossing the Lakshmana Rekha: Shakti, Sensuality, Sexuality' she wants to show how Indian society has inherited a culture that had a vibrant debate about sexuality but in modern times that debate has been silenced as women are not allowed to express themselves freely. She hopes that through her art, a debate will be kick-started and society will be able to give space to those women who are protecting their individuality and leading a life that is different from what the society expects them to.
Katharina in her debut solo show of mixed media installations and drawings that opened at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre uses chillies, spices, coir, wax, condoms, copper, clay, dried fish and a host of other discarded products to bring out her themes of rape, female foeticide, violence and abuse. Katharina has been living in India since 2003 and studied Comparative Religion, Anthropology and Indian Art History at the Free University, Berlin and is using her educational background to interpret Indian society through her art and writings.
The central piece of her display is the installation ‘Crossing the Lakshmana Rekha’ which is created out of wax body parts. “My installation consists of a large empty circle, filled with rose petals, and several hundred wax body parts (of my own body) placed beyond the line drawn by Lakshmana. The installation not only refers to women’s vulnerability in public space, but also to the issue of public and private space and the growing visibility of women in that space,” says the artist.
Katharina also makes mention of the “Nirbhaya rape case” in a floor installation of wooden items from a traditional metal workshop and copper rod. Through this work, she seeks to depict the aggression towards women, who cross into public space, which in India is culturally a “male space”.