In this article, Kalki Subramaniam writes how through encouraging creativity among transgender people, a change is being brought for the psycho social wellbeing of their future.
The majority of Indian transgender population (census of India 2011 survey says 4.88 lakhs, but it could be 5 times higher) is not educated, mostly ostracized by the family, thrown out of our homes and have lost the opportunity to study at school or college. This rejection makes us disqualified for well paid jobs and pushes us into the street for begging and sex work to make money to meet all their needs.
While food and shelter become a priority, education fades away as a distant dream for us, and art is something not in our priority and needy list at all, we see it only in films or occasionally in newspapers and ignore. But I, being a transgender woman who was one of the lucky few to be accepted and adored by my family, had the privilege to get educated and to travel the world, and as well be an artist, knew the importance of art in our lives, the transgender people’s lives.
When you can’t write what you think, when you can not wisely express the issue that is bothering you or affecting others, when you have an urgency to speak out a need, a problem, an issue or you want to shout out with happiness and euphoria, but don’t have words, or ears to listen to your words, art comes as a powerful medium to express visually.
Art comes to heal you. To balance, to pacify and bring out those emotions exactly as they are. Raw, colourful, abstract, bizarre and bursting as much as we, the transgender people are.
It began as a personal journey for me at the age of 13. I used to draw, paint and write poetry when no one could understand the gender non conformity I was going through. The internal struggles could not be expressed in sounds and speech. I wrote poetry and made art to live myself, my self. Art was a therapy, I had no doctor to help me, no psychiatrist to counsel and guide me, and I found great solace in painting and poetry. Years later, I published my poetry book in Tamil and began my career as an artist besides the other identities I don.
Making art heals me from the wounds and scars of the past, art heals the pain I had to go through of who I wanted to be and how the world perceived it and shamed it. For thousands of transgender men and women in our country and around the world, art could mean so much. Indeed, art can change our lives for better, make us healthy human beings. Make us the healers.
I became more balanced and grounded after I started to paint. I wanted to give that wonderful experience to my transgender community. Recently, we, at Sahodari Foundation, thee non profit working for transgender people of India, held an art & healing workshop for 10 transgender women from underprivileged backgrounds. It was a three days workshop held in Satdarshan, a serene quiet holistic centre in the middle of forests of Western ghats near Anaikatti hills, Coimbatore.
From day one, all the ten women participants were passionate about learning, drawing lines to circles and shades to shadows, they learnt the basic with attention and focus. We did not miss to play and have fun in between. The first two days were the basics, on the second day in the after noon, the girls began to sketch their art on canvas.
That evening, the magic began to manifest. Colours began to flow, shapes began to fill, emptiness began to vanish and creativity was bubbling in the room. There were smiles, sizzling chats and each participant was constantly going to the art teacher requesting help to help, asking him doubts and questions. The canvases began their journeys filled with joyful colours there. One by one, the women were completing their first art on canvas in life. There was excitement. That night we had bon fire and danced till we ached.
The third and the final day of the workshop was buzz with activities, time was too short and those who had done their first art pieces started to do their second, those who were in the middle of making their first art work were a little concerned if they could finish it in time. Some even forgot their breakfast and were immersed in their canvas. Between breaks, we had games and dance performances too.
Our art teacher and friend, Hariparthan was full of patience, instructing and guiding them all one by one, supervising their art, giving ideas and helping with brush strokes. The final output of the girls were spectacular.
The amazing workshop ended with wonderful pieces of artworks created by people who have never touched an art brush in their life. I was totally happy to see their excitement. Soon, Sahodari Foundation will be organizing an exhibition to showcase their talents to the worlds. Any sale of artworks will completely go to the artists who created it.
The time came to go our ways, to our places and once again face the world. The girls took with them the joy of creating, the experience of peace and togetherness, an unforgotteable gift of art making.We packed our bags, got into the tempo traveller waiting for us and reached Coimbatore. We hugged and kissed and almost were in tears and said good bye to each other. Yet, the excitement was there in us throughout.
Art opens us a new world of possibilities, it heals our wounds and scars of the past and can guide us through the colourful path of the future. Making art is a sacred experience; a spiritual journey for the transgender community of India. Like dance and music, art is becoming an important part of self expression, celebration and therapeutic for the community.
Art can help our livelihood too, taking art seriously as a profession will change one’s life. Sahodari Foundation encourages their interest as professionals and will fund their education in art. No more begging, the transgender community is blessed with talents and we need to tap it, dare to experiment boldly and create masterpieces.
Sahodari Foundation is offering series of workshops for 100 transgender women, encouraging them to create artworks and will showcase it all in July this year. We will be touring the country and take these artworks globally. Any sale proceeds from the artworks will go 100% to the artist who created it. Visit our website www.sahodari.org to know how we transgender people’s lives for better.
I heard Viji speaking to other girls after the workshop :
“When I go back home, I will go to a store and purchase art materials and canvas, I will practice more and make more artworks. I am astonished to discover that I could make art”.