The 17-Year-Old Delhi Feminist Illustrating Global Issues Away
by Priyal Thakkar
Meet Kaanchi Chopra, a feminist from Delhi, whose art is taking the world by storm. She’s drawn on a variety of issues, including but not limited to women empowerment, poverty, body shaming, acid attacks, and multiple personality disorder. Her blog has received over 16,000 views in 122 different countries, and her work on acid attack victims has caught the attention of organisations such as Stop Acid Attacks, Make Love Not Scars and Sheroes Hangout. She is also a part of the Brown and Proud movement and is currently working on a graphic novel.
School of Doodle: You define yourself as an “artivist.” Could you explain the genesis of this beautiful term and what makes an artist an artivist?
Kaanchi Chopra: I have always believed that art is an intellectual idea embodied in a visual form which is capable of driving social change and awareness. Art not only cements injustice into our collective memory, but also propels us to move forward like it propelled me. Alice Walker, an American novelist rightly said “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”
Throughout the course of history, art and activism have come together and enlightened, empowered and educated people. So, artivism is an amalgamation of 2 simple yet really meaningful words — art and activism.
An artivist merges commitment to freedom and justice with the pen, the lens, the brush, the voice, the body, above all — the imagination. Being a person who has been following this path since 5th grade, I take pride in addressing myself as an artivist and I take more pride in being the propagator of this specific field of art. I recently read a research paper by Eric Friedenwald-Fishman who put my thoughts into well-expressed phrases. He stated “there is no investment that connects us to each other, breaks cultural barriers, moves us to action, and strengthens our ability to make collective choices more than arts and culture.”
SOD: People respond differently to an illustration, than say, locution. How do you play that up for maximum effect and what do you think makes an illustration stand out?
KC: This is something I have observed in school — while performing artists like actors, dancers, and musicians get a stage to showcase their talents and a live audience to cheer them, students indulging in fine arts do not get such an opportunity. How often do we see people jumping and screaming while viewing an artist’s paintings in an exhibition? So, the point of comparison doesn’t seem right to me. Locution and illustration both are forms of art and come under the same umbrella, yet they are pretty much different. When it comes to art, I believe visual imagery and graphics have this everlasting impact on the hearts and minds of its viewers. One doesn’t require some prior knowledge of any subject to understand art, one doesn’t need to be fluent in any language to interpret a drawing.
Anyone from any part of the world can comprehend the artist’s noble motive and this is how art breaks cultural barriers and brings people together into forming communities of like-minded people.
While making an illustration, I research a lot. I try to connect to people’s emotions, their past experiences, their views, their beliefs. I try to reach out to my audience and make my paintings as relatable as possible. I quote phrases, I state facts and statistics, I put forward solutions and recommendations, I do everything possible to create an impact on the reader, a positive impact. An impact powerful enough to make them wonder, “a teenager is doing stuff about the world’s problems then why am I sitting idle?”
In my opinion, when an artist transforms her thoughts into actions, that makes her artwork stand out because that piece of art comes directly from the heart without getting adulterated with the stereotypical approach of the society, without being affected by people pulling her down, without merging with other people’s opinions, without satirical quotes on her capabilities, without chains that try to bind her freedom. If an artist has full faith in something and paints that, it’s a representation of what her mind thinks subconsciously, it’s like her brain’s DNA, it’s the call of her soul. And hence, it stands out always.
SOD: Tell us more about the Periodic Table of Global Issues!
KC: So, I am a grade 12 science student in DPS Rohini. I was reading the chapter ‘Chemistry in Everyday Life’ of our course book. As I flipped through the pages of this chapter trying to decipher the meaning of the title, a flashback to grade 10 suddenly reminded me of the Periodic Table. How we used to make numerous mnemonics to memorise the Alkali metals, Alkaline Earth metals, Halogens, Noble gases and Transitional metals. In this entire rote learning process, I found something different and probably something as meaningful as those elements. I realised that each and every symbol of the elements in the Periodic Table was an acronym of a global issue. It could be expanded to form a word which represented one of humanity’s worst vices. Consequently, I even added a few words which represent the various movements and social issues which have gained a lot of attention in recent times and still have stigmas associated with it.
The major reason for adding these issues was to encourage people to become more inclusive and talk about these movements and rights more openly. It took me almost a week to design the table and a number of brainstorming sessions too. While some issues just clicked in my mind, others I had to find on the internet and in the Encyclopedia. The issues which were new to me, I presented a brief account of them to the readers of my blog. I made this table to spread awareness about the global issues and the immediate need to work harder and together to solve them. I have provided the meaning and statistics to depict the extent of an issue and at the same time, I have mentioned the solutions to make the readers realize that there is hope at the end of the tunnel.
SOD: Do you believe that it is of crucial importance to be loud about issues in order to soften the stigmas attached, and how does art change that?
KC: Unless and until you present the harsh realities in front of the world, people will continue to believe that we reside in a flawless land. Unaware of the injustices and inequalities, people will just worsen the situation of the victims. One must not turn a blind eye to the oppressed. Being vocal of our thoughts and actions is extremely important in today’s times. There are people out there whom we can inspire and motivate to do the same. The bigger audience we reach, the more number of people join us and together we can improve other people’s lives. Giving voice to the voiceless, a hand to the disabled and maybe someday, sight to the blind so we can describe the better world we’ve built, together. Art reaches to the bottom of the soul and while it instills guilt in the punisher, it empowers the victim to rise above and be loud. Be loud in addressing the issue she faced, being loud so that other’s don’t face it, being loud so that punisher remains quiet, forever.
SOD: What’s next in the cards for Kaanchi Chopra?
KC: There is nothing I wish to do more than to merge art and technology. I have dreamt of this as a kid, I dream about it still. Using design and computer science to build products that can solve real-life problems is my life goal. Being a die-hard fan of the comics and the cinematic universe, my other life goal is to work at Marvel Studios. Yes, someday, hopefully.