Gift of Tongue
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Gift of Tongue is a title of the solo show exhibited at Seven Art Gallery, New Delhi. The exhibition attempted to project the struggle of women’s voices in our society. It was 2013, and one of the year’s most brutal gang-rapes had outraged the nation and reached an international headlines. Yet the voices of women in this country remained marginalised. Women are objects that can be possessed, distributed, tortured and destroyed at will.
(Detail) from a painting series "Empty Throat" . Bees wax, powder pigment, and glass beads on paper, Untitled, 2013
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I needed to look at the present mind set in hind sight, but instead of looking at Indian historical evidence of describing a patriarchal nation I chose Ovid’s Metamorphosis. The women in Metamorphosis are vulnerable and powerful at the same time. To my understanding most of the stories project women as objects of desire who exist to be consumed, if not by will then by enforcing extreme cruelty. One particular story dominated this project Ovid’s telling of “Tereus, Procne and Philomela”.
Philomela, the beautiful sister of Procne was deceived into captivity by Tereus (the husband of Procne). After raping Philomela, his own sister-in-law, he cut her tongue to stop her delivering any testimony. Philomela was determined to expose the truth to her sister Procne, who is unaware of her husband’s barbarous wrongdoing to her own sister and mourned the false news of her death. Philomela wove a tapestry describing her ordeal and sent it off to her sister and together the two sisters took a gruesome revenge on Tereus.
It was the weaving of the tapestry that fascinate me. She articulated her trauma through a pure visual art, and a craft reserved for women.