Meet The Teenage Mumbai Artist Who Sketches Goddesses In Feminist Avatars

By Poorva Joshi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Priyanka Paul, a 17-year-old, Mumbai-based graphic artist is using her talent to create unique images of women with the intent of crushing the injustice and gender objectification women have faced through the ages.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Priyanka Paul’s feminist goddesses found praise, went viral and earned flak online

“The Goddesses stand tall, and unashamed
Laughing in the face of aghast disciples,
As they reclaim

That’s an excerpt from Pantheon, by Mumbai-based poet and culture blogger, Harnidh Kaur. In it, Eve walks into a church naked, Kali uses Snapchat, and Hera — the Greek goddess of marriage — participates in anti-opression debates on Facebook.

The poem is provocative: Kaur’s goddesses are not isolated, mythical creatures living in temples. They are everyday women, oppressed and objectified.

Priyanka Paul, a 17-year-old, city-based graphic artist found the poem on Kaur’s Instagram page. “It celebrated being a woman — bold and unabashed. I was able to conceptualize it visually,” says Paul. So, in July, Paul published a series of sketches based on Kaur’s characters, on her Instagram handle, @artwhoring.

Goddess Kali, inspired from @harnidhk ‘s poem, Pantheon. Tumblr Kali is a badass brown girl. Loves graphic t-shirts and piercings. She’s against misogyny and sexism and quite literally slays. #Tumblr #Kali #Goddess #Pantheon #Illustration #Art #Grunge #Draw #Paint #Brown #Hindu #Hinduism #God #Celestial #KaliDevi #Devi #Illustrate #Artist #inspiroindia #inspiro #feminism #women #feminist #reclaim #browngirl #curryscentedbitch #brutsubmission

The art is quirky: Kali in a crop top, Hera with a half-shaved head, Amaterasu — the Japanese goddess of the sun — in a bathrobe, with #FreeTheNipple (the battle cry of an 2014 gender-equality movement) tattooed across her chest. Titled the Feminist Goddesses (FG), the picture series has more than 1,200 likes on Instagram.

For Paul, currently a mass media student at St Xavier’s College, art became a medium to express herself during her turbulent, teenage years. “Going to college introduced me to in-depth studies on cultures, and the feminist movements, in particular. I was affected by the injustice and gender objectification faced by women through the ages. That’s when I started using art to express the outrage and teen angst,” says Paul.

Goddess Amaterasu, is the Japanese Sun Goddess. She’s a huge fan of J-pop and Sakura icecream. She’s a supporter of the Free The Nipple movement and loves sushi. #goddesses #freethenipple #japan #amaterasu #divinegoddesses #illustration #art #pantheon #draw #kimono #sushi #women #fan #japanesefan #feminism #feminist #asian #japanese #sun #sungoddess

The exposure to feminism has clearly left a mark on Paul’s social outlook: she is now a staunch feminist. All this at just 17.

“I believe feminism is incredibly important in India. As the youth, it is our responsibility that the movement bears good results. And since art has always played an important role in the global feminist movements, I hope to speak about gender-related issues through my art, and inspire people to question years of social conditioning,” says Paul.

Prior to the FG series, Paul did a 12-part series that depicted the sun signs as female characters. So, Taurus (usually depicted as a bull) became a woman with horns, and Pisces (depicted though fish, and characterised as adventure-lovers) became a woman making sand castles at the beach. The artwork is popular, with close to 500 likes each.

Taurus’ are party carnival animals. They see partyyyy, like bulls see red! #Taurus #Zodiac #ZodiacSigns #StarSign #Bull #BullGirl #Spanish #Mexican #Horns #Poncho #Party #Cute #Girl #LittleGirl #Red #Carnival

With FG, Paul has married pop culture and religion, a hot potato in India. But why goddesses? “They [goddesses] are symbols of femininity across cultures. It only seemed fit that they be seen as modern representatives of feminist liberation,” says Paul.

Did she receive any backlash? Not initially, she says. The first few reactions were positive. “In a month’s time, when the series went viral, the illustrations were taken out of context. I received lewd comments on Instagram. People were particularly offended by the two fingers under the tongue in the Kali illustration,” recalls Paul.

The episode, however, has not rattled the young artist. She chooses to focus on the appreciation she received for FG, and is already on to her next project. “My next will be based on the taboo around periods. I want to use pickle jars that menstruating women are not allowed to touch. It represents centuries of prejudice against womanhood,”she says.

The struggle of being fat, in my head it looks like this. What I weight drops down to me weighing all my options. To women who are trying their best to lose weight, all the best and I hope you love your bodies and work towards nurturing and loving it!

To women who aren’t working out, all the best to you and in your journey to acceptance, I wish you love and well being. To all women, you are beautiful and fearless and strong and through all your perfections and flaws, you bring to this world so much Happiness and love and so much more. So never stop shining all you amazing humans! ? #doodle #draw #fatgirldiaries #fat #bodypositivity #lovemyself #selflove #size #weight #food #allmycurvesandallmyedges #workout #exercise #gym #lift #doodlejournal #illustration #dodlediary #digitalart #everyoneisbeautiful #beautiful #art #pastel

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