An art assignment on a historical event, a young student in her seventh semester, and the growing issue of censorship: put the three together and you may not always get a result this magical; but Akshita Chandra, a Bengaluru-based art student, took a college project to a new level. Wanting to go beyond a simple historical retelling, Chandra was passionate about one of the foremost contemporary issues in India—that of censorship.
Akshita Chandra’s erotic art, drawn in the style of the Indian Khujaraho temples, is reminiscent of the double standards where it comes to censorship and culture in India, with ancient relics being lauded but contemporary work being labelled as obscene or licentious. Recalling her inspiration for the project, Chandra talks of the issue of moral policing having been on her mind for a while, having read about the 1979 incident where 62 drawings by F.N. Souza being sent over from the US were held at customs for being ‘obscene,’ as Souza questioned whether illustrations of the Khajuraho temples would be similarly confiscated.
Chandra, wanting to explore what really is “obscene,” started her series she titled ‘Being Censitive,’ drawing the temple’s famous erotic sculptures on paper but using them to comment on various issues of censorship in India. She attempted to dynamically censor them so the viewer could be part of the censoring/unveiling process, and help uncover what is underneath, literally as well as in terms of the issues she focused on.
When I first wanted to work with this subject, I didn’t realise how big it would become. I was overwhelmed with the response, which made me understand how the project initiated conversation about the subject. It felt great that something I had produced could do that! It was so gratifying, the work was almost therapeutic for me.
She has uploaded her creative work onto Tumblr, after which it went viral, contrary to her expectation, and you can view more images there.