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The Kadak collective, a collective of South Asian women involved in different forms of graphic storytelling have come up with their Kickstarter campaign for their anthology of graphic narratives named The Bystander Anthology. Artists from across 13 countries of South Asia, including diaspora Indians find a space of expression within the anthology. The outcome is a diverse collection of artworks which moves away from mainland culture and resonates voices not only from distant and dispersed geographical spaces but also from varying vantage points which go on to present a more holistic, and less skewed idea of South Asia.

THIS PROJECT ITSELF IS AN INTERVENTION BY THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES IN THE CURRENT SOCIO-POLITICAL SPACE, REITERATING THAT BOTH ART AND ARTISTS ARE POLITICAL.

Unpacking the meanings of the title, Mira F. Malhotra, an artist based in Mumbai comments, “In South Asia, there’s a lot of diversity, and also a lot of marginalised identities in one spot of land. Everyone is an ‘other’ to another. As an Indian citizen, I find myself constantly learning more about my own or other people’s culture, language and identity within South Asia. When we talk about bystanders the typical way to see it is in a public space, persons not bothered to take action. Privilege could make you a bystander. By not speaking up for another, even privately, you are also being a bystander. Or you can be a bystander to your own life, as others make decisions for you. What if you’re excluded/ oppressed and can’t do anything to help? Identity requires a definite sense of identification, a boundary – ‘I am this’, and therefore ‘I am not that’ – which then makes most people outside that identity, bystanders. We took on a more nuanced approach and cast a wider net. Right now, along with the feminist movement, which we see joining up with other marginalised folks of different abilities, caste etc., in South Asia we are witnessing a lot of majoritarian politics and marginalised folks are now made to be bystanders.”

They are subverting the idea of a bystander not just through their creations but also through their identities and position in the socio/economic and political spaces that they acquire.

This is not to say that the artists involved or the project itself lack interventionist fervour. Sabika Abbas Naqvi, from the edit team of the project, comments, “This project itself is an intervention by the artists themselves in the current socio-political space. They are subverting the idea of a bystander not just through their creations but also through their identities and position in the socio/economic and political spaces that they acquire. This project reiterates that both art and artists are political. And that art is not removed from reality and neither does it survive in a vacuum.”

Also read: Kadak Collective: Questioning The Status Quo One Art (Tea) At A Time

Currently, the collective is gathering funds for the campaign by June 17th, after which it aims to start working with the collaborators on their concept notes. The anthology is planned to be released in January 2020. 


Contributions to the anthology can be made here.

Featured image source: Kickstarter

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