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Illustrator Agrima Kaji On Her ‘Beauty In Diversity’ Series That Celebrates The Different Cultures Of Each Indian State

  • IWB Post
  •  April 24, 2019

You ask any Indian person about Punjabi culture, they’ll be able to tell you. Ask them about Gujarat or Rajasthan or Maharashtra, the cultures of these states are known to almost all Indians, thanks to Bollywood movies and TV shows.

But mainstream media fails to celebrate our diversity in its entirety, India has 29 states and that many different broadly categorized cultures and yet, we fail to celebrate them in art and movies.

Artist and UX designer Agrima Kaji has posted a series of illustrations on Instagram, picturing women in ethnic clothes from different states. For the series titledBeauty In Diversity, she’s created 31 illustrations that highlight one very prominent feature of a state’s culture, be it in the woman’s clothing, jewellery, or her actions.

“I wanted to show something unique to each state that is different from the others. For example, in some pictures, I have shown festivals, which have a deeper meaning behind them, like the Karma festival for Jharkhand and reason for celebrating it, like how they worship the tree to bring and keep the family together. For Bihar, I have shown the Chhath Puja festival and explained why they worship the sun and the beliefs they have. I just wanted to show something unique about each state, be it a festival, or a dance, or even a famous personality. Like for Delhi, I’ve used Razia Sultana and for Maharashtra – Rani Laxmibai,” says Agrima.

While the numerous different festivals our country celebrates are always times of joy and togetherness, one cannot ignore the patriarchal reality of these customs. There is a gross imbalance, wherein the women are the only ones striving for the men in their lives, either fasting for a husband’s long life or for a brother’s safety. A lot of these rituals have backstories rooted in patriarchal norms and mindsets and celebrating them with the same intentions in today’s day and age just further propagates those restrictive patriarchal beliefs.

Shot 23: Head held high! Inspired from Madhya Pradesh’s Baiga tribe. . . . The Baiga do not plow the land, because they say it would be a sin to scratch the breast of their Mother, and they could never ask their Mother to produce food from the same patch of earth time and time again: she would have become weakened. The Baiga tribes practice shifting cultivation, called ‘bewar’ or ‘dahiya’. . . Tattooing is an integral form of their lifestyle. They believe that ink is the only thing that one carries to the afterlife and tattoo is a proof that you doesn’t enough time on earth. . . . Forehead tattoo is the important tattoo and firstly done. Their motifs are inspired from natural elements like earth, wind, fire, water and celestial objects majorly the ‘sun’ Sun is an important motif as it depicts the life source. . . . I’m posting this in the middle of week as we have arrived in Central India 😄 (also a lame way to cover up for procrastination due to festive season 😅❄️) . . for reference check out this amazing documentation of baiga tribe : https://www.sahapedia.org/traditions-skin-baiga-women-and-their-tattoos . . #art #arte #arts #art_spotlight #artesanato #arty #artistsoninstagram #artist #artsy #artwork #artes #artofinstagram #àrt #artistic #artlovers #artworks #artis #art_empire #artesanal #arts_help #artistoninstagram #artgallery #artcollective #art_we_inspire #artjournal #artoftheday #followforlikes #artstagram #nailart #art_of_japan_

344 Likes, 14 Comments – Agrima Kaji (@madeby_agrima) on Instagram: “Shot 23: Head held high! Inspired from Madhya Pradesh’s Baiga tribe. . . . The Baiga do not plow…”

The need of the hour is to create understanding about such rituals and be conscious about what we are promoting, even if it’s unconsciously. Agrima says that this is an extremely important thing that needs addressing and her work was an initial step in this direction. “With this series, I wasn’t trying to introduce any new idea or bring about any changes but wanted to emphasize and celebrate whatever we (women) are doing right now, that is what needs to be encouraged as well, I feel. Even if women are fasting and are doing more than the men, they at least need to be appreciated and recognized for what they do.

Shot 24: Inspired from Chattisgarh. . . . The men and women of Chhattisgarh have evolved their traditional clothing and imbibed them with the modern take on fashionable attire. The Kachhora style sari which was worn originally by the tribal women is now adorned by the younger generations . . . Women of Chhattisgarh accessorize their clothing and attires extensively. They feel that their attire is incomplete without it. The use of Baandha- a type of Necklace which is made out of coins is a common embellishment. The women also adorn themselves with the following traditional accessories: . . . Silver necklaces such as ‘suta’, a ‘phuli’ as a nose ring and ‘bali’ & ‘khuntis’ as earrings. . . Choora (bangles) and Kardhani – a belt like object made out of silver is worn around the waist. Bichhiya – traditional ring worn on the toe, which is a symbol of marriage. . . The bright and vibrant color combinations inspired with tribal prints are now a trademark of the fashion industry. . . . #art #arte #arts #art_spotlight #artesanato #arty #artistsoninstagram #artist #artsy #artwork #artes #artofinstagram #àrt #artistic #artlovers #artworks #artis #art_empire #artesanal #followforlikes #artistoninstagram #artgallery #artcollective #art_we_inspire #artjournal #artoftheday #digitalart #artstagram #followforlikes #follow

340 Likes, 10 Comments – Agrima Kaji (@madeby_agrima) on Instagram: “Shot 24: Inspired from Chattisgarh. . . . The men and women of Chhattisgarh have evolved their…”

Yes, I agree that we should have a balance in this case and there should be more cultural responsibility for men as well. And my first idea was to recognize the work that the women are already doing.”

Agrima has also portrayed tribal women from the northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Tripura. It wasn’t always possible for her to visit these places and get to know these women personally, but Agrima says, “I  read stories about the tribal and learn about their beliefs from all the different sources I could find.”

Awaiting Spring. Inspired from the jhumar dance in Harayana. Shot 19 of beauty in diversity. . . . . The jhumar name is derived from the head jewelry. This Dance is sung in arrival of Spring. . . . #illustration #illustration_daily #illustration_best #illustrations #illustrationsketch #illustrationdrawing #illustrationfashion #illustrationow #illustrationage #illustrationnow #illustrationforkids #illustrationwork #illustrationhowl #illustrationofinstagram #illustrationaday #illustrationartists #illustrationartist #illustrationdaily #illustrationgram #illustration_art #floralillustration #illustrationart #characterillustration #editorialillustration #illustrationdesign #traditionalillustration #vintageillustration #illustrationstudent follow #followforlikes

357 Likes, 8 Comments – Agrima Kaji (@madeby_agrima) on Instagram: “Awaiting Spring. Inspired from the jhumar dance in Harayana. Shot 19 of beauty in diversity. . . ….”

Agrima is also in the process of publishing her new series of illustrations titled ‘The Believers’, and on choosing this particular mane, she says that “I just wanted to portray females in different aspects of their careers and of their lives, believing in themselves and not the biases of society or the hardships they have been facing.”

She feels that women haven’t always been allowed to have a strong voice and hence through her series, she wanted to send across the message that they can also be strong and rise above their hardships just like these brave women did.  “While growing up I never saw role models who were like me, I mean sure we had Princess Diana, but I knew I would never be a princess. So I wanted role models who were more relatable and that is how I started. But when I started talking to others, they wanted to see themselves as well. Everyone needs to be celebrated for being their regular selves,” she further explains.

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