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Is Banksy’s Latest Art Work A Comment On The Corruption Of Society?

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Banksy’s Seasons’ Greetings

I think those who create with the intent of beauty in mind are called artists, those who destroy are vandals and those who provoke and question current systems are activists. Somehow, these three seemingly different terms come to mind when one thinks of street artists. To the law, they destroy public property. However, they still manage to enrich it with their destruction. They create art for the public sphere—often anonymously—without thinking about monetary profit or fame. The artwork stands in all its glory for the consumption of the masses and it’s not just a luxury accessible to the bourgeois class. And often, this art acts as a provocation. It questions the very principle that the contemporary society stands on—it criticizes, critiques and bashes, but it does so unapologetically. The very act of creation becomes resistance.

Street art has been a complicated issue since its beginning. Graffiti can be seen as one of the first examples—emerging on walls and cars in 1920s New York as works of gang members. “Art is a game that, for the most part, only the privileged can play. Graffiti is not”, admits a Vogue UK article, which in itself says something. Jean-Michel Basquiat—one-half of SAMO—began his career as a homeless man. He focused on wealth disparity and segregation, which are both profoundly political and politicized issues. The reasons why street art may be exceptionally provocative are varied. Perhaps the biggest reason that comes to mind is the sensitive subject matter that is involved. Ignorance no longer remains an option for the minister in his office or the office-goer in his Mercedes, or the children riding their bicycles to school.

We live in an imperfect world, but at least it is one which allows for free expression (for the most part) and values it (for the most part). There exist these fearless artists who treat entire cities as their canvas, who are not condemned to jail time. Even though many of their messages may come under scrutiny by the far right, it has (for the most part) been agreed, that these rebels manage to provide valuable insights into current world systems and generate a certain sense of “weakness”.

Banksy may be seen as one of the most famous artists of all time who has provoked the world for over two decades with his outright rejection of contemporary politics. The artist is said to have emerged out of Bristol, England, in the 1990s. Banksy’s work was much influenced by Parisian Blek Le Rat, who is known as the father of stencil graffiti art. As global politics became more and more embroiled in controversy and bigotry with Trump and Putin taking over the scene, Banksy began to be seen as the messiah of the street art world—ready to convey precisely what was needed to be said. The artist has come to be seen as representing the voice of an entire generation (and more). Banksy uses his work to bring to light the issues that are neglected due to the masses’ need for distraction by something trivial.

Banksy is in the news once again, one must instead count the days of the week when he is not. This time it is for his Port Talbot piece titled “Seasons’ Greetings”. On one side of it, you have a young boy with his tongue out waiting to catch what he thinks is falling snowflakes. It’s all beautiful and idyllic. On the other side of the image, you see smoke and ash appearing out of a dumpster. The boy is blissful and ignorant—unaware of what awaits him. It may be a comment on the corruption of society—perhaps an attempt to allow the viewer to grieve for the loss of innocence after seeing how it begins to break. Now, this thought-provoking piece is being taken out of the street and being put into a museum ironically called the Museum of Street Art (or MoSA).

While it is essential to provoke the public and make us think about injustice and the hypocrisy of the systems we live in and to question the values that enchant us, one must wonder whether this art does belong within the four walls of a museum? Is this not a massive ideological (and metaphorical) shift away from the core value upon which street art lies? If the location has a direct impact on the viewership of the piece of work, and if it is such a defining characteristic of this genre of creativity, is the integrity of the art compromised? Banksy has promised free entry for residents who wish to see the work. However, many are skeptical.

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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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