New Delhi, March 18— The three-month long, and still continuing, protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh emerged as a melting pot with artists, not just participants, came here from far and wide and across sections, and effectively made it more inclusive and powerful.
“Art has played such an important role in resistance. We believe art can bring change especially given all the ugliness of the world,” said Shilo Shiv Suleman, founder of Fearless Collective.
She is a Bengaluru-based artist who came to Shaheen Bagh to lend support through her art. She leads ‘Fearless Collective’, a global movement of artists which works to reclaim spaces for women. In Delhi, her team were painting a giant mural on a wall adjacent to the Shaheen Bagh protest site.
“Women representing their own stories in their own spaces out on the streets completely fearless,” said she.
The predominantly women-led protest at Shaheen Bagh on the southeaster fringes of Delhi on December 15 last year has often been described as ‘Ground Zero’ of protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act which the protesters see as an existential threat and are seeking its repeal. The protest – which has seen Muslim women come out on the streets in large numbers across the country — has found support from all walks of life, and from all strata of society from octogenarian grandmothers to college students.
Art has been used by many of the protesters to convey their angst and to inspire others to join in their cause.
With the support of the local community, Shilo Shiv Suleman painted a giant mural to pay homage to this peaceful women-led protest.
“On the seventh year anniversary of the ‘Fearless Collective’, I am in Shaheen Bagh painting a mural – this one is particularly close to me because I am half Hindu and half Muslim and this is an issue that actually affects me in a very personal way. The fearless process and work are very participatory with this particular mural. We sat with the women of Shaheen Bagh understanding from them how they would like to be represented,” she said.
“We actually had some of the women from Shaheen Bagh, come by and they said we don’t know how to paint but when they said okay we will try so they climbed up to the top of the scaffolding and finished it really fast.”
“They painted the background; and I asked them you said you don’t know how to paint’ and in response they laughed, saying ‘We have wielded brooms and mops to clean our homes for years, holding a paintbrush is the same’.”
There are many other artists who have come to support the cause.
Artist Vidur Sethi and his friends have been sharing their message of peace and love through posters and wall art. He is college student and artist.
“Seeing our art, people are inspired to come out in support. In a way this is our creative way of expressing solidarity with the women of Shaheen Bagh,” he said.
Whether Shilo’s giant Mural or Vidur’s posters, all the art at Shaheen Bagh speaks in one voice – a voice that demands peace, love and equality for all
Bint-e Zafar, a participant, said: “We often think that art is not a big thing. We often take it lightly, but it can actually say so much.”
Shagufta Shahnawaz, a local resident, said: “I like how these artists have come from so far and working so hard. I salute their spirit.”
In challenging times, art cannot only communicate but also has the power to heal As former US President John F. Kennedy said: “Art nourishes the roots of our culture. Art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”