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Artist Pariplab Chakraborty’s Portraits Of Women Farmers Help Break Gender Stereotypes

  • IWB Post
  •  December 5, 2018

Thousands of farmers marched on Parliament Street in Delhi last week to demand the government’s attention and action on the crisis that they have been experiencing over the years. Many women farmers also took part in the protest and shared their concerns and demands. It is important to note that our women farmers are an integral part of the agrarian economy and its high time that get their due.

As a “radical feminist”, Delhi-based artist Pariplab Chakraborty says, “I do not subscribe to the view or the ‘image’ of Indian farmers as only ‘male’.” To put his point forward, he has created watercolor portraits of women farmers to break the perception of people.

In a conversation with IWB, Pariplab shares how he has been a witness to the role of women’s agricultural labour in the agrarian economy and we also get an insight into how we, as citizens, can improve their situation.

Indian Women Farmers

Excerpts from the interview:

What stereotypical perception of yours were broken on meeting women framers during the protest? 

As a radical feminist, I do not subscribe to the view or the ‘image’ of Indian farmers as only ‘male’. I was born and brought up in a small town (Hamiltonganj) of North Bengal, which is highly dependent on its agrarian economy. In the tea estates, especially, I have witnessed the huge participation of women agricultural labourers who are deprived of land ownership and economic autonomy but play the most important role in economic structures. Their struggles are equivalent to that of male farmers. That is why I wanted to break the perception of people regarding the ‘image’ of Indian farmers. I believe there’s always something significant beyond the normative image. Through the projection of women farmers in the Kisan Mukti March, I just wanted to portray the ‘beyond’ of the stereotyped perceptive imagery of Indian farmers.

What captured your imagination as an artist when you saw women farmers for the first time?

As I said, I have been witnessing women farmers since my childhood days, my repeated encounters with women farmers have shaped my feminist spectacle of seeing the Indian Agrarian Economy. The huge participation of women in the Kisan Mukti March triggered the respect I have for women farmers and it inspired me to paint these portraits.

Indian Women Farmers

Tell us the story of any woman farmer who inspired the portraits that you created.

In this case, there are loads of women farmers who inspired me to paint the portraits. I cannot specify a single person because every single woman with their protest, struggle, and resistance inspired my art.

Tell us how conscious were you about selecting the colour and style for your portraits and how did it help you tell the story of these farmers?

I do not consciously follow specific patterns, grammar, or normative styles of painting. I portrayed what I have been a witness to and I used the vivid red as the metaphor of struggle and protest. I used the gray background to focus the women farmers specifically. I did not complicate the narration of the portraits because the demands of the women farmers were bold and straight on the face of the patriarchal state machinery.

During the protest, did you manage to learn about the demands of women farmers? How different were their demands from their male counterparts?

Women farmers and women agricultural labourers are the worst victims of distributional injustice, subjugation of economic freedom, patriarchal state oppression, and so on.

Though there are some common demands of the farmers irrespective of their gender and sexuality, the women farmers, specifically, were raising other questions too. Their demands focused on land ownership by the women, economic autonomy, freedom, recognition, self-respect, and much more.

Indian Women Farmers

In what ways has patriarchy crushed the dreams and ambitions of these women?

The subjugation of economic freedom, lack of education, curbing down the cultural, political and social freedom, gender injustice, unequal pay, wage gap, displacement due to marriage and violence are the consequences of patriarchy. Specifically in the context of the Indian ‘Brahminical Patriarchy’, these factors have acted as a hindrance and obstruction in the path to those dreams and ambitions of these women farmers.

In your opinion, what can an Indian citizen do to improve the situation of the female farmer?

The agrarian economy is the foundation of the country’s existence but the farmers are always denied proper attention from the state and the greater society. Women farmers, especially, are struggling with the worst condition. In this context, a greater solidarity of the citizens of the country from every corner is the necessity of the time. We need to arrange more protests and networks of resistance. The citizens need to be aware regarding the people who feed them. Only a greater resistance from the citizens collectively can annihilate patriarchal subjugations and improve the situations of these women farmers.

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