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Artículo Meet the South Asian female collective disrupting public order through street art and beauty Culture


Meet the South Asian female collective disrupting public order through street art and beauty



Fearless Collective is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter for a new art residency that will span across a number of countries in South Asia

Anna Freeman

23 Marzo 2018 11:10

The complex ways we navigate public space articulates a power struggle between different identities. Gender, race, class, sexuality, and other processes of identification, inform our understanding of the public. Historically, women on the whole have occupied a secondary position to that of South Asia, are using beauty to disrupt the public order. The collective began with a poster following the brutal gang rape of a girl in New Delhi in 2012 and has grown as a battlecry for greater representation of female power through street art. Fearless Collective is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter to raise $30,000 for a new residency, Protest by Creating Beauty, which will spread across a number of different countries in South Asia.

Here, we speak to the collective’s founder, Shiv Suleman, and development director, Cassie Clint, about their new project, why disrupting the public order is empowering, and how feminism is paving the way for a community of female street artists globally.

Tell me about the public art residency kickstarter campaign.

The Fearless Collective Public Art Residency in South Asia is being organised for nine or 10 artists and activists from South Asia, including Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Residency will bring together women with an interest in the intersections of street art and feminism, and who are willing to take their art and skills to the street to facilitate and represent critical social justice conversations in their own communities. The long term goal of the residency is for participants to return to their communities as the creators of their own conversations; advocates for gender equality by leaving critical and socially-relevant murals for all to witness.

Fearless Collective mural

How does disrupting public spaces with art change the dialogue on women's rights and movements?

In many contexts in South Asia (where Fearless has its roots), people are not used to ‘seeing’ women in public spaces. The first thing to do is create more acceptance of seeing women in these spaces. Participative storytelling that turns into public art - that brings women together in a public space - means they are seen and heard. In terms of changing the dialogue on women’s rights and movements, I’m not sure our goal is to change the conversation but rather to widen it. We are eager to find ways to have conversations on challenging social issues and we believe, and have experienced, that making beautiful, affirmative public art pulls people in.

Aa a women-led collective of artists and activists, our work is to respond to moments of personal trauma and social crisis by creating beauty. We explore questions of identity, belonging, gender, shame, borders, and home using public art, community workshops and messages of affirmations. The collective has worked with diverse communities ranging from the daughters of sex workers in New Delhi, to immigrant communities in Boston, to the Tupinamba of Bahia, Brazil, making monuments to personal histories and political realities.

Talk me through the steps and requirements for this project. What is the toolkit all about?

Fearless Collective is open source; all of our work can be downloaded and shared. We want our methodology to be picked up and used by communities across the globe. The toolkit is our first attempt to document our methodology in a form that will allow an artist or community member in say, Orlando, Florida, to download an accessible, step-by-step guide and run their own public art project that speaks to the concerns, questions, and hopes of their own community. We are running a Kickstarter because we want this residency to come to fruition through the support of those that love our work around the world.

Street art in Pakistan

Being as diverse a group as you are, how does your feminist stance differ from that of western, white narratives?

Our philosophical and artistic foundation stands on the shoulders of a long history of South Asian women taking to the streets to reclaim their stories, rights and space. One of our main focuses is on 'reclaiming', and is perhaps what simultaneously sets us apart at the same time as bringing our feminisms closer. We don’t believe that our feminist stance differs from western, white feminist narratives at their most inclusive. Feminism for us must include the stories, experiences, hopes, and joys of women across the world, transcending and re-shaping borders and social boundaries in the process.

We believe in abundance, not in terms of consumption but in terms of creation; of collaboration. We want don’t view human rights or feminist organising as a zero sum game - one community’s rise is not the fall of another. Rather, it is an opportunity for new collaborators, new creators, new ideas to emerge. The idea of building a longer table, not a higher wall, is at the core of what we do and how we approach feminism in our work.

How and why did Fearless Collective start?

It started with one poster in the aftermath of the 2012 gang rape in Delhi. Indian artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, Fearless’ founder, was in the national capital at the time attending a friend’s wedding when she witnessed thousands of people taking to the streets in protest. In response, Shilo created a poster campaign featuring a flood of beautiful images affirming womens’ fearlessness. Five years later, The Fearless Collective became a fiscally sponsored U.S. 501(c)(3) project by Bay Area Social Good Fund and has expanded to a team of seven women spread between India, Pakistan, the U.S.

You can support the Fearless Residency via their Kickstarter campaign here.