Radhaben Garva, from Kutch, has been painting the Indian women’s movement for the last 20 years in vivid, layered sketches. I was thrilled when Granta.com asked me to do an essay accompanying the artwork from her book, Picture This!
The essay is up on the site here: http://granta.com/radhaben-garva-painting-the-womens-movement/
In another of Garva’s paintings, Malji, a sheep rearer, thrashes his young bride Sarli; she lies on her side, her mouth turned downwards at the corners in dismay and pain, cartoonish drops of blood staining the earth as the cows watch. She is in colour, her assailing husband and the silent cows in outline; and so are the two women who watch and who will go back to tell the rest, three splotches of vivid pink and leaf green connected by the thread of gender and solidarity.
Alternatively, many of the happiest sketches are about the journeys the KMVS women make once their movement has grown apace. The women are depicted leaving the village, riding on the back of a tractor, their red and green odhnis and wide skirts and the blue of the tractor’s sides providing a vivid splash of colour in an otherwise brown and white sketch. ‘Wherever we went,’ Garva writes, ‘we stared and were stared at – for we were now claiming spaces that were not considered ours.’