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75 Years Of Independence

We The People: Discrimination Can Be A Lonely Battle, Says Bihar Artist

Artist Ranjeeta Kumari explores displacement and migration in her work and depicts the loneliness of gender and caste, which stems from her own story of growing up in a Harijan colony in Patna

Ranjeeta Kumari, Artist

A cloud of smoke billows from a stove and if you look closely at the canvas, there is a ship, a plane and landscapes within that reddish cloud. It is about a woman left behind. Her dreams, her loneliness, her longings and her reality.

Bihar-based artist Ranjeeta Kumari explores displ­a­c­e­m­ent and migration in her work and depicts the loneliness of gender and caste, which stems from her own story of growing up in a Harijan colony in Patna. In a state whe­re caste identities are more pronounced than anywhere else, she says she first encountered discrimination in sch­ool, where the uniform given to her under a scheme for the poor was of a lighter shade than those of other girls. They had left their village in Mokama to settle in Patna.

“This discrimination never left me. At the time, I didn’t realise it was loneliness, but it has followed me around,” she says.

Strokes of Equality
 

It was everywhere. In her house, in the world. She would ask her father—a businessman and an activist—about this, and he would tell her about Ambedkar. She would often see him read books, even though he had never completed his formal education. Among the books was a red coloured one—the constitution of the CPI(M).

“Society has given you loneliness,” she says. “I recognise that in my work and my life now.”

Her father often talked to her about the Russian Revo­l­u­tion and freedom. He told her that the red flag came from the blood of those who had perished fighting for equality. “You see, I paint that equality in the dream form,” she says.

Her art, which is about the visual identity of the marg­i­n­alised, has made her come out into the world despite the odds and empower herself by talking about what she always felt was a loneliness that was imposed upon the women by taking away their freedom to choose. Always been hesitant to talk about caste, she said she understa­nds now why her father would insist on saying they were from the Dom caste.

She received her BA in Painting from the College of Arts and Crafts, Patna in 2008. In 2016, she graduated with a Masters in Fine Art (Research Programme) from the School of Humanities and Social Science, Shiv Nadar University. “Education is one step towards that equality,” she says.

In the room at the Lalit Kala Akademi in Patna, on the white walls, she has hung her paintings. In that world on the canvases, the walls are dark, the clouds grey and there are always dreamscapes where a poor woman insists on her right to dream.

(This appeared in the print edition as "Strokes of Equality")

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