Indian photographer and installation artist Leena Kejriwal shares her story with SHEROES today
Leena Kejriwal, a creative and fine arts photographer talks about her professional journey and her latest social project M I S S I N G.
I am the fifth of six children in a conservative Marwari house. I was sent to a boarding school at the age of eight. I had a fun, carefree childhood which I think has also shaped me in its own ways. It has left me idealistic, which I think is a boon!
Getting into photography…
I was always artistically bent and after some fine art training I learnt photography. The dynamics of a photographic image always excited me. I picked up my camera again professionally only after I had had my two children. I started my city, my muse and rediscovered it for myself. The works have been produced in a book "Calcutta: Repossessing the City" with a lead essay by prof. Tapati Guha Thakurta.
It was during one such jaunt across my city that I entered a red light district for the first time. And it has been an experience which hasn't left me since. My work the last few years have again and again addressed the issue. Digging behind the facade trying to show the brutality of sex trafficking. I started to realise that my audience wasn't whom I wanted to talk to. These shows were travelling all over Europe after Iran from 2012-2014. That is when I attended a Public art Think tank at the SVA in NY. To simplify my language and to be able to talk to the masses with my work.
The story behind - MISSING;
MISSING is a public art work addressing the issue of millions of girls who go missing due to sexual exploitation. The work consists of larger than life black silhouettes of girls set against the sky like black holes cut out into it into which millions disappear from the face of the earth.
While I thought that the response to the project would be slow, right from the launch to the crowdfunding campaign to the stencil project being taken up by volunteers around the world, it has grown steadily. We have followers writing in from all corners of the globe, supporting us and showing their solidarity with the cause, which is amazing and inspiring. The fact that we successfully carried out a crowdfunding campaign in a country like India, where public art is hardly understood, was also something we are proud of. We are all about awareness, because while the NGOs and police do their job trying to curb the problem on ground by directly saving the missing girls, we are doing it by trying to spread mass awareness and stop the demand for it itself, which is just as important.
My motivation stems from the gravity of the issue at hand. Sex trafficking has been around for years and most of the times, people don't believe they are to be blamed because they are not directly involved. But by being passive and allowing it to go on in today's modern times makes each human being an aid to the heinous crime. We are trying to change that mindset using public art to create awareness.?
This is how my day goes...
A normal working day starts around 10.30 am for me. Between sending out emails, Skype calls, follow-ups, brainstorming over the different facets of the project from the installations to the permissions and fixing meetings with Govt dept. In the middle of all the admin work the creative work doesn't seem like work at all. There are also visits to Hamari Muskaan, an anti-trafficking Ngo in Bow Bazaar. I am mentoring the senior group from the age of 13-18yr olds. The MISSING project has of course over taken all other facets of my creative work as of now.
Thank you Leena for sharing your story with us today!
Know of a SHERO who we could talk about? Send us an email on [email protected] !