Tuesday, December 12, 2017
TDEA(N)ATION

ART+ACTIVISM!

Deemed as one of the first few Artivists of India, Kaanchi Chopra is a rather soft spoken, cheerful teen. However, her doodles share a different story, powerfully speaking out about her passion for social causes, from every stroke of the brush. In conversation with School LIVE, Kaanchi speaks her heart out about ‘Artivism’ and how she managed to use her passion for painting, to make a change in the society.

A class 12 student of DPS Rohini, Kaanchi is as active as they come. From being a member of her school’s student council, MUNs attendee, founder of the Art Club, to volunteering for NGOs like Goonj and Make a Wish India, to conducting events like Art for Education, Climber’s Kickstart Summit, to being invited to speak at TEDx Talks at DPS RK Puram, Shiv Nadar University and Amity University, Kaanchi has done it all. In conversation with School LIVE, she divulges candid details about how she started doodling, what fuels her passion and most importantly why ‘Artivism’.

Tell us about Artivism and what significance does it hold for you?

Right since my childhood, I have been imbibed with the fact that visual imagery is much more powerful than any other form and thus, I want to make people aware about the fact that they can use their art to bring about a change in society, in other people’s lives and in their own lives as well. I wouldn’t say I coined the term Artivism, but I surely am an ardent propagator of it, an attempt to help a social cause through art.

How did you start doodling?

The love of arts in me was encouraged by my school and my mother. DPS allows its students to participate in a lot of intra-school events, right since kindergarten. So, my mother and I used to stay up late at nights, racing our minds about an Origami or craft project, and thus I learned to love arts, right since my early years.

Later, when I reached class 4, since I am blessed to have such amazing parents, they started introducing me to the various problems of the society and we would indulge in conversations and discussions about such issues. This helped me develop empathy and a strong urge to bring about a change.

I think, all of this resulted in my first doodle, which came about in class 5. I was participating in an inter school painting competition and was supposed to draw on one of the topics from a list. One of the enlisted topics was ‘Save the girl child’ and that instantly caught my eye, and while my fellow participants were painting perfect portraits of children playing in the park or the blue sky, I drew a huge pearl necklace. On one of the pearls, I drew the face of a girl child, with tears of blood streaming down her eyes and a sword piercing the pearl, with the caption, “Like a necklace is adorned with pearls, a family is adorned with girls. Do not commit this sin, do not kill girls”

From there on, I have started painting more frequently.

Tell us about your blog, how did it come about?

So ever since class 10, I started painting at a greater pace and therefore I needed a place where I could feature all my work, and what better place is there for that, than WordPress. Therefore, I started kaanchichopra.wordpress.com. I didn’t really think that my blog would help me reach out to a much larger audience, but I realised that when I started getting views and messages from not only my school, but other schools, other cities and even other countries.

My blog further gained fame when I drew a series of illustrations on acid attack and acid attack victims, a cause which is very dear to my heart. I started my blog in November 2015, and over the course of these few months, I have garnered about 16,000 views from over 125 countries on my blog, this was followed by Huffington Post, Hindustan Times, Buzzfeed and Mashable covering my doodles.

Through my illustrations on acid attack victims, I wanted to make a point that they still have their beauty intact, that they still are amazing, and all of this popularity has only helped the cause, which makes me really happy.

How do you come up with an illustration? Is there a process?

The process begins when an issue starts to concern me. I then, start reading about it, I collect statistics, read stories, personal accounts, all of which results into a series of illustrations. I try to imbibe numbers and statistics in my doodles, because that’s what catches the eye and makes people aware of the staggering number of people that the particular issue affects.

Acid attack is one issue that constantly keeps pulling me back towards it. For the Google science fair, I tried to device a medicine that would help the acid attack victims to heal their scars, but I failed there, so I came back to what I know best, drawing.  I read a lot of accounts of acid attack survivors and therefore, I came up with my acid attack series of illustrations, which is very close to my heart.

Was there a defining moment that turned you into an ‘Artivist’?

There wasn’t a particular defining moment but the acknowledgement of the fact that art can break cultural and linguistic barriers. Since art is open to interpretation, one does not need any prior knowledge or experience to feel what a particular artwork is trying to tell you and this makes art a powerful means to bring about change.

Secondly, living in Delhi, one gets to hear about rape cases and acid attacks, almost every other day, and so I decided to club my art with activism and try to bring about a change. However, a few incidents do motivate me, for instance, in class 5, I was teased by the name of ‘Kaali mata’, just because I have a dusky complexion, and so I associated myself with an organisation called “Brown and Proud”, I also made a doodle depicting how each person should be proud of who they are.

How do you feel about your rise to fame?

Humbled, honestly. It gives me immense joy to see my artwork inspire people to bring about a change in their lives. Also, this popularity has given me a lot of work opportunities. I have come across opportunities to partner with people from other countries and raise funds for particular causes.

I was really excited when Mashable featured my story, it was then that my brother advised me to not be swayed by this external validation, but focus on the change that I want to bring about, through my work. Nothing makes me happier, than when I receive messages from people telling me how my works inspire them, or how they want to put up my doodles in their house. Popularity is short lived, what stays, is the change that I wish to bring about.

What are some of the future projects that you will be taking up?

One of the projects that I am most interested in is the introduction of ‘Art Therapy’ for autistic students in schools. I feel as the burden of academics increases, the students lose interest in their creative passions and suppress these instincts. Therefore, I want to request the schools to imbibe Art Therapy in their curriculum to help the autistic students relax and enjoy their school life.

I am also in the process of writing a graphic novel, which will cover all the issues faced by women, from pay discrimination to female infanticide. A street art project is also in the pipeline, where I will be making street art on sites where rape cases have been previously reported.

I also plan on starting a fund raising campaign by selling t-shirts with my doodles on them. The funds raised would be donated to various causes.

 What are some of your hobbies, apart from drawing?

I am a very passionate public speaker, a lover of photography, and an aeronautics enthusiast. I am a huge movie buff and a diehard comic book nerd. Marvel all the way.

I am so happy that Riri Williams is taking over Iron Man, diversity makes me happy.

Who do you idolise?

I feel like I still have a lot to learn and so I idolise a lot of people. I especially admire Elon Musk for his dedication. I read it in his biography that he works for around 22 hours, at the age of 40. I also admire business magnate and philanthropist, Phil Knight, again for his dedication and diligence.

In the 1900s, Abanindranath Tagore, painted a portrait of Bharat Mata as a four armed goddess, making him one of the pioneers of artivism. He with his work, managed to instil the feeling of nationalism in the people of India. As an artivist, I have immense respect for him.

The artist, Shepard Fairey, whose design for was selected as the ‘Hope Portrait’ for the 2008 election campaign by Obama, is another artist that inspires me. Currently, the artist Shilo Shiv Suleman is someone who I look up to. Her campaign ‘Fearless’ is one of the most brilliant ideas that I have come across.

Nowadays, one doesn’t see artists or people in general, care much about social causes. Artists paint to mint money. What I urge all to do, be it an artist, writer or singer, is to try and put their talents to use in such a way, so as to create a better tomorrow.

For more from Kaanchi, check out kaanchichopra.wordpress.com

Kaanchi

Student Repotre

August-2016