Only 17 years old, Mumbai’s Priyanka Paul is a red hot Instagram star thanks to her highly expressive sketches of Hindu goddesses depicted as epitomes of feminist liberation. Inspired by Harnidh Kaur’s poem, ‘Pantheon’, Paul’s works are about oppression across cultures, the reclaiming of female bodies, and sexualities. Her idea was to put the goddess into today’s women, making them strong and fierce; exemplary of feminine divinity.
Art wasn’t something she’d planned to take up as a career, Paul told Feminism In India. “I’ve been drawing since I was a child, but I only started taking it seriously when I got into junior college,” she said. “I chose the humanities stream and was introduced to subjects like sociology and political science which contributed to an understanding of different cultures and generally, the world around us, as well as human experiences.”
Harnidh Kaur’s poem is about modern day feminists, their social media activity, and sexual liberation. In a male-dominated world, female sexuality has always had to be hidden. “But our goddesses have always been epitomes of feminine divinity and power,” said Paul. “So why not depict them as epitomes of feminist liberation?”
Given the religious angle of her work, Paul has come in for much criticism. In fact, you could even call it a backlash. “Apparently I ‘inappropriately’ depicted the goddesses,” she said sarcastically. “It’s ridiculous how an illustration was taken out of context and people were offended by it. I was questioned how I dared to draw Goddess Kali in that sense. I was told to learn from MF Hussain and ‘Charlie Hebdo’. I’ve received lewd and disgusting comments. I tend to ignore the hate, but it says so much about our social media audience. People are offended over two fingers under Goddess Kali’s tongue, but not with the social media abuse of a 17 year old artist?”
Paul clearly is a young woman of strong will and well-entrenched feminism. “The term ‘feminism’ has been taken wildly out of context nowadays,” she said. “A lot of my peers do not want to be associated with the term. There are serious misconceptions about feminism, as though it’s against equality. But equality is what feminism stands for. I believe art and expression will help bridge the divide and will convince more of the youth about the relevance of feminism in every aspect of our lives.”
That’s the way to move forward!