‘Shakti–The Power’: An exhibition of painted masks on the theme of women empowerment

The colourful masks are a recall of the age–old practice of Venetian masters who took pride in exhibiting their talents through creating unique facial decorations for masked balls

‘Shakti–The Power’: An exhibition of painted masks on the theme of women empowerment
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Qazi M Raghib

To give the women participants an even platform for expressing their thoughts on the subject of women empowerment, the Speaking Art Foundation personally provided each of the participants with a facial mask cast in fiber glass (13x13 inches) as their ‘canvas’.

The stark contours of these forms have now been reborn into powerful outlets of individual thoughts that hold up a mirror to contemporary society and its woman achievers.

Known for their ability to invent the parameters of art around ever novel art formats, this time round, the organizers have put concerted their artistic talents in an entirely new direction, with commendable results. Veering away from the set format of framed canvases, the art is showcased in colourful masks, a recall of the age–old practice of Venetian masters who took pride in exhibiting their talents through creating unique facial decorations for masked balls, carnivals hosted by the elite glitterati of Europe.

‘Shakti–The Power’: An exhibition of painted masks on the theme of women empowerment

Also, the mask making tradition has a strong Indian footprint among our folk performance traditions where the characters in the drama, on and off stage, exude their emotional veneer through the medium of the painted mask.

As the aim of the SAF organizers is a people-centric engagement, using art as the conduit for such an exercise, the current exhibition titled ‘Shakti – The Power’, is exhibited as a collective of masked creations fashioned by about 200 artists from 30 cities from all over India. All of them have been a part of this noble cause, engineered to showcase women’s empowerment, by contributing painted masks designed and crafted according to their artistic thought process. National and International level artists’ as invitee also took part in this socio-cultural event.

Besides its pictorial strengths, the masks on display also convey a powerful and committed message that traces the ups and downs of women’s status in the country, beginning with the heyday of women power in the early centuries, when women held equal status as rulers, mathematicians, warriors et al. The decline of the medieval period too, has found voice through these painted creations.

‘Shakti–The Power’: An exhibition of painted masks on the theme of women empowerment
‘Shakti–The Power’: An exhibition of painted masks on the theme of women empowerment

As the exhibition also holds up a mirror to the dark sides of contemporary times, some of the creations are candid portrayals of the pervasive phenomena that stigmatize women as mere objects, and subjected to the worse kind of offences, including sexual degradation, and as inferior role players in societal matters.

Thus whatever, be the chequered details of highs and lows in this journey, this history has been re-invented and positioned into a new format, by becoming the subject of the current showing of masks. Of course the major message emerging from this effort at mask making emits the message that women are ‘unputdownable’ and that no amount of social and physical oppression has been able to crush the indomitable power of womankind.

The mask exhibition is at RKG Art and Culture Center, New Delhi.

(The exhibition is curated by photographer Neeraj Sharma)

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Published: 28 Oct 2020, 8:00 PM