The good memes starter pack: things to keep in mind while making memes

A lockdown meme by Sowmya of @rajaravivarmamemes   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

In a 1901 Raja Ravi Varma painting, Maharana Fateh Singh of Mewar wears a sombre expression much of which is covered by tufts of unkempt beard. ‘Waiting for the salon to be open like…’ reads the accompanying text. Simple, relatable, not to mention, absolutely hilarious.

The meme by the popular @rajaravivarmamemes on Instagram, with 23.7K followers, which best explains what was once a lockdown plight, was shared and re-shared widely within minutes of being posted.

Fifteen years ago, the meme culture in India was still at its nascent stages. Many dedicated, categorised pages, and the rise of a wide gamut of full-time meme-makers later, it is not surprising that Gen Z-ers are infamous for communicating this way.

An image-heavy panel, with terse yet impactful and often humorous text, the meme has evolved into an accepted medium for imparting information, registering protest, being funny or beating isolation blues. With lockdown came an abundance of time and a rise in interest among millennials and Gen Z in creating them.

For instance, Chennai Photo Biennale recently conducted a two-day workshop on meme-making. The workshop, helmed by visual artist Adrita Das and arts manager and curator Abhinit Khanna was more of a theoretical walk-through touching upon the sensibilities involved in creating a meme.

Get the basics right

“There can’t be a stepwise process. It is very subjective. The best to do is to make it seem relatable and at the same time, personal for you as well,” says Adrita.

According to the visual artist behind the Cards Vs Sanskaar project, the information imparted also forms a major component of what makes good memes work.

Postcards by Cards Vs Sanskaar creator Adrita Das

Postcards by Cards Vs Sanskaar creator Adrita Das   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

On the other hand, trying to make one intentionally, might backfire. “Figuring out what you want to talk about and finding a funny way to express it, matters,” she adds. Finding one’s own voice is key, as is the case with any other content creators.

“Memes die down very quickly. They have a very fine sensitivity,” says Abhinit Khanna, the creator of #ArtWorldMemes adding that being updated about current affairs lends a lot to the shelf life.

His 10 years of experience in the art field, led to a lot of observations which resulted in the popular hashtag: #ArtWorldMemes. It takes a dig at oft-seen issues in the field of art and curation. What is news today, might seem alien to us in the coming week, he adds, citing the example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindi speech during lockdown which was fodder for much content on social media. “It is no longer relevant and a meme about it will not be understandable today.”

A few pointers
  • Be in tune: start following popular content creators to know the trend
  • Be a “meme-dealer” to others: keep sharing memes to get visibility
  • Always attribute: Credit the artist if you are using their work. Tag their accounts
  • Find a credible source for images: Google Images/ Google Arts and Culture art-related) are options
  • Make sure the text is terse, understandable and understandable. Let the image do a major chunk of the speaking

Makers also advise against trying too hard to sound funny. Sowmya who single-handedly runs @rajaravivarmamemes , says, “Keep it simple — use the ironic instances in your day-to-day to make memes. There is a lot of food for thought — the arts, culture, Bollywood, politics, the society we’re surrounded by. Pick what you relate with and which can be a source of abundant supply of content.”

An #artworldmeme by Abhinit Khanna

An #artworldmeme by Abhinit Khanna   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

For Sowmya, text precedes image because she lifts off instances directly from her own life. “I do not know anything as well as I know myself,” she is quick to add. And, most importantly, she says, the process should be as enjoyable to make them as it is to view them: “humour shared is happiness multiplied”.

As memes continue to be used as an active medium to express dissent and challenge the system, it is important to know how to tread carefully. Trolls are inevitable as makers reach an expansive audience with varied beliefs. When it comes to political content that is likely to attract criticism, Adrita sticks to a single philosophy — “You always have to punch up and not punch down. Personally, I feel that if you can’t even joke about or critique institutions like the Government or religion, what’s the point?”

In fact, Abhinit believes that asking difficult questions through their content, makes them feel prouder about what they do. “If you offend someone, that’s their problem, not yours.”

A meme by Sowmya @rajaravivarmamemes

A meme by Sowmya @rajaravivarmamemes   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Apart from being an humorous outlet to express one’s opinions, a meme is also an emotional outlet: for both the artist and viewer. Human connections made over a meme, count, says Sowmya.

Her account to her is nothing less than a community. And, in the COVID-19 world, this aspect becomes all the more important.

Shared happiness

“Life has been hard for a whole lot of us, with salary cuts, job losses, the grief over losing loved ones to the virus… We deserve to let down our walls, and find a place where we can laugh together, if only as a way to release all the pent-up stress,” says Sowmya.

The lockdown and isolation led her to look at life differently: make fun of everything. This reflected in her memes as well. “My constant craving for meals, the never-ending Zoom calls, the silver-lining quarantine-joy of being ‘bra-less’ and the lingering smell of Pril long after you’ve done the dishes, nothing was off limits.”

With the increase in time spent on social media, people are also looking for content that lifts their spirits.

Trusted meme accounts then become safe spaces, Sowmya concludes, “for those few precious moments when you engage with a meme and tag those who you think might relate.”

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 11:51:31 AM |

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