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Heard About ‘Adarsh Balak’? His Creator Has An Awesome New Project You Can Be A Part Of!

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Known for his humorous take on kitschy government propaganda advertisements from the ’80s seen across hospital walls and school buildings, Priyesh Trivedi is well-known for his “Adarsh Balak” series of online posters. In his latest online venture called “Saptan Stories”, Trivedi joins six other graphic artists from the UK and India for an incredible 7-week online crowd-sourced story-telling event, where the audience is invited to submit their creative lines to form one story.

In this interview, Trivedi describes the intersection between storytelling and art what it is like working on a project where the audience has an equal stake in telling a story.

You’re well known for your “Adarsh Balak” work. How does that character allow you to speak and express yourself? How do you relate to that character?

I guess the series allows me to channel and materialise ideas in a visually concise manner. I always find drawing an idea out easier than expressing it verbally. It also leaves a long-lasting impression on the mind of a viewer than the transience of words does. Maybe the post-ironic kitsch subversion has a major role to play in that. I relate to the character on many layered levels. It represents my views on things but also helps me project and explore a side of myself that itself keeps changing. So there is a constant development of me as a person that informs my work. So more than relating to the character, I see it more as a medium to create and maintain a dialogue.

Priyesh Trivedi
Mumbai-based graphic artist, Priyesh Trivedi

You speak eloquently on the importance of art that conveys ideas and stories through history – How do you approach that through your work?

All art, whether intentionally or otherwise, reflects the contemporary condition. I also feel art, just like language has an evolutionary function and it’s not exempt from its rules either. There is kind of a natural selection of aesthetics and ideas and that’s what history reflects. The thing that interests me the most about this interrelationship of art and history is just how radically this change has occurred in the last two centuries after the Industrial Revolution (and later with technology) and how it seems to be a little scrambled or directionless right now, which is liberating.
But as far as my project goes it only deals with a certain aspect of the ’80s in India’s visual history, in particular with the educational posters that were highly problematic. How something that seemed so innocuous on the surface was pumping moral propaganda and social engineering into unsuspecting minds. So my series is more like a reaction to it but it also deals with a broader phenomenon of this love for the archaic and vintage that people have and how the subversion of it makes a point in itself.

What is the perception of UK culture and art in India?

It’s hard to point out a general observation because people from a wide range of demographics have such varied tastes and inclinations. But for me personally, art and music from the UK has been very close. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and metal bands like “Black Sabbath”, “Motorhead”, “Sex Pistols” to name a few. Even others like “Queen” and “The Beatles” who I’m very fond of. Later when I got into electronic music I discovered all the genres coming out of London for the most part. In visual arts I’ve always been a fan of the YBA group as well as iconic painters like David Hockney and Bridget Riley. Being from Bombay I get to see the architectural juxtaposition of these two cultures and also how it gave birth to Indo-Saracenic style.

Priyesh Trivedi Week 1
Priyesh Trivedi’s illustration from Week 1

How important is it to you to introduce art to people who might not normally see it or have access to it?

I think art in some way or the other emerges from the lived experience of a person. Maybe it is an inevitable outcome of just living and observing. So even if someone might not be familiar with the works of Michelangelo or Warhol because they don’t have access to information or mediums like internet or libraries, they still have the ability to create.

To me it’s more important to have it in life than to know a lot of about it if the latter doesn’t seem like an option. I would love for my work to reach a lot of people and the internet seems to be the best way. But more than that I think the general perception of art in educational and social institutions has to change for people to take it seriously. For most people it’s not that they don’t have access to it, they just choose to not care as it doesn’t affect their lives in a way that not doing your taxes on time does. And in many ways this could be right but it certainly does affect the collective human experience that they are a part of.

All art whether intentionally or otherwise reflects the contemporary condition. I also feel art, just like language has an evolutionary function and it’s not exempt from its rules either. There is kind of a natural selection of aesthetics and ideas and that’s what history reflects

How do you see storytelling as part of your art?

Storytelling is very integral to “Adarsh Balak” series. For the most part, it’s direct and linear to keep it simple and clear. This is something that’s noticeable in my comics more than illustrations. I usually work with four panels or two panels depending on the narrative. Also, it’s easier for me to pull it off because of my experience working as a storyboard artist for animation films.

But I don’t see them as comics which is why I don’t involve word balloons or dialogues. Some ideas and their temporality are just too complex to condense into a single illustration. Those works are funnier because there is a gradual build-up and anticipation for something twisted at the end that goes well with the dark humour that the series is known for.

What excites you most about being part of “Saptan Stories”?

This is exciting because of the scale of engagement and interactivity between artists and audience. Because it’s inclusive and dynamic due to audience participation in continuing the stories, it makes the audience the creators, as much as the artists are making it one large work of art where everyone is involved. Also it’s great to be a part of this alongside other talented artists from these two countries that share so much history and culture.

Visit Saptan Stories today to ‘Submit’ your story lines and be a part of the conversation. Click here 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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