Painting the Town With A Cause: The Aravani Art Project

The Aravani Art Project is an initiative that was started by twenty-seven year old Bengaluru-based artist Poonima Sukumar. The project aims to draw the transgender community  into the mainstream arts and crafts arena. It brought members of the transgender and art community together to paint, create, interact and open up a platform to discuss and exchange stories.

Sukumar got acquainted with the community in Bengaluru last year when she was assisting a filmmaker who was making a documentary on them.  She has worked on various community projects, including painting government schools to make them more attractive for students. She has also painted shelters for the homeless in Mumbai, and in 2014, spent several days in a truck between Hyderabad to Kashmir for her ‘Winter on Wheels’ project. On the way, she stopped at several cities, painted walls and collected relief material for the flood-hit people in Jammu and Kashmir. In her latest endeavour, she wants to use a more inclusive form of art. Sukumar is planning a something similar to her Project 001 in Bengaluru, which is being organised in Chennai.




“The project aims to use art as a means of expression for the Hijra or Aravani community. I feel this provides a platform for the Aravanis to share their stories and experiences through creative arts,” said Abhishek Choudhury, one of the artists who was part of the project. As friends and colleagues, the two artists have worked on several mural and street art projects together. “She shared with me her idea about the Aravani Project and I was really excited to help her out.” Other artists who collaborated on the project include Sadhna Prasad, Anita Isola, Deepak Ramola and Sharanya Ramprakash.

With several more projects planned, the wall art installation is just the beginning. Another initiative launched by Poornima, along with her best friend, titled Embrace Impermanence involves the collection of glass bottles which are recycled, cleaned and hand-painted, then kept at various cafes, such as The Rogue Elephant, free of charge. As she mentioned in her statement about the project to The Hindu, “Most of them depend on sex work or beg to make their ends meet,” she said, “I wanted to start something that would help them earn a living.” She has also conducted workshops for many members of the transgender community interested in arts. Next under the project, she plans to get people to hand-paint bottles, which will then be sold for Rs. 100. Four people from the third gender will be roped in for the project.







 All images courtesy of Homegrown and Poornima Sukuma

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