Despite many people saying, and even believing, that the pandemic was a great leveller, the truth was different. The COVID-19 outbreak and its resultant lockdowns hit different people differently. While the virus itself did not discriminate, it laid bare the existing discriminations and layers of privilege.
Sandbox Collective, a women-led art collective that focuses on gender, realised these discrepancies. Nimi Ravindran, the co-founder of the organisation, says, “We heard that domestic violence escalated. Our friends in theatre were fundraising for transgender people and sex workers, who had no way of coping with a calamity. It was a testing time for women and gender minorities. We wanted to do something that involved something tangible.”
Sandbox Collective collaborated with interdisciplinary artist Deepikah Bharadwaj for a project that they called ‘Rest Your Thoughts Here: The Gender Chronicles’.
“Not a very convenient name, but we wanted to invite people to just take a breath and put down their thoughts in journals,” says Deepikah, the project’s curator. “Even a small note or scribble was welcome. We sprinkled the journals with some prompts like- ‘emotional achaar (pickle)’ , ‘sometimes I wonder…’ and some collages to break the formidableness of a blank page. We wanted to create a safe space through the RYTH boxes which travelled the town (Bengaluru) carrying the journals, art supplies, markers, and some candy,” she explains.
The lockdowns were a deterrent in the journals reaching beyond the urban youth. “It was a logistical nightmare. Sometimes we paid people in Dal Makhani to carry the books from one end of the city to the other,” she says. And they managed to get a few varied perspectives.
“Transgender activist and artist Kalki Subramaniam has contributed a video of her poem in Tamil, we also have some interviews and poems in Hindi. We did an online collaborative event using a MIRO (whiteboard) board where people contributed live.”
Curating the project was challenging for Deepikah. “People had shared their deeply personal thoughts. It was quite a responsibility to carry these experiences and present them online.”
She struggles to pick a favourite entry. “There is an entry by artist Meenal Singh that I really like, it says ‘My young daughters noticed my despair at them picking pink. They said “It’s because Mumma doesn’t like girls.”’ It sums up the dilemma of being a feminist mother so well. Meenal’s despair perhaps stems from an overdose of commercial colour coding of girly things. Her children however, interpret it differently.”
About 30 entries — artworks, videos, poetries, anecdotes, and pure scribbles — will be on display from November 28 during the launch of the exhibition supported by the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore.
The live event will also feature a live Hindi poetry by Kavita Malviya and artist Avril Stormy Unger will perform an artwork that made it to the journal.
Register for the event here