October 2016 is when I began my tryst with visual expression. Before that, I had spent two decades falling for humiliation dished out by art teachers at school who believed that art could be created through set rules alone and if any hint of individual play came out, it needed to be beaten down out of existence.
This need of the human brain to label, box and confine things, feelings and other human beings into separate tags and categories, as a way of organising society, is what is the defining subject that I explore through my new illustration project called #BodyShamingArchetypes.
I am posting one archetype daily on my Instagram and will collate some of it here too, with a little more detailed thought but if you are looking to follow the project everyday, make sure to check it out on Instagram.
One singularly most potent form of oppression exists via labels attached to the body in the name of gender, race, caste, class, colour, ability and so on. These labels while in an initial thought exist as the brain's automatic need to sort things into X and Y, A and B but when used in tandem with the various forms of oppressive structures that we are all born into, become ways of effectively controlling the individual.
If the very vessel (for the lack of a better word) that you exist in, embody, and meet the world with is shamed, belittled, bullied, nitpicked based on standard that don't even apply to your unique self, imagine the kind of mental distress and energy expenditure that goes into hating the self, feeling unsafe, unhappy, disempowered within the self and eventually dissociating from oneself. Any form of violence that exists within the oppressive structures we inhabit will always somewhere begin from and end at othering, oppressing and disempowering people in the bodies that they embody.
#BodyShamingArchetypes is something that I had decided to do as a little personal project to exercise my life drawing skills. I had not intended for it to be something other than that, until I felt compelled to articulate that if knowledge alone was enough to embody justice, our world today would not have violence, mental health crisis and oppression.
Knowing and being able to fully embody something you know are two separate things, with the latter taking its own due process which requires more consistent effort. Until all of us embody that which we seek to build, it is important to continue to sound the bell, to state what the mind may find obvious for the body and heart need to hear it again and again, until they have fully embodied love and justice inside-out.