Rape Me, by Sadhu-X

Burnt alive. Beaten and forced to eat human feces for being a ‘witch.’ Raped. Molested. Abused, physically and psychologically, in public spaces, in front of mute bystanders. The news about violence against women in our immediate and distant communities is brutal and consistently shocking. As an artist, I believe they deserves an equally shocking reflection and response – at least enough to provoke a sense of discomfort with what we allow and accept in our society where female deities are revered, in the country of the living virgin goddess Kumari, a world built by mothers, sisters, wives.

photo 2Occupy Baluwatar emerged to raise the issue of Violence Against Women (VAW). Two years later, while media attention and public awareness seems to have increased, so seems to have the cases of VAW itself.

Kumari is a living goddess and some of our biggest festivals are based around her. But why is reverence of women reserved to the gods, and not their mortal counterparts on whom the deities are in fact based?

Rape Me is a song by Kurt Cobain of the rock group Nirvana. He is said to have written it to express his feelings about being ‘raped’ by the media constantly; a reflection of the loss of his, and consequently his family’s, privacy. To me, this sense of psychological rape is also as abusive as the physical one. Why does the notion that women are somehow not as capable as men, or somehow a girl cannot dream as much as a boy is encouraged to, the notion that a girl child is a burden, continue to persist?

I had wanted to make this piece since December 2012, and have finally found a venue for it to share with the public. By no means am I trying to offend or disrespect my beloved goddess Kumari. I am simply taking the icon of her to provoke people through a visual medium – to make the point that no female should be treated lesser than a man, no female should be abused simply because of her gender. Otherwise, it is no different that assaulting or raping your gods and goddesses, whichever they may be.

pandaPanda, by Sadhu-X
Commissioned by Kashish Das Shrestha

When the International New York Times published an image by Vincent Yu (Associated Press) of Hong Kong police dragging a protestor away, I spoke with Aditya Aryal (Sadhu-X) on using that image to make a larger point about accountable systems. I also wondered if we could play with the dynamics of Banksy’s iconic protestor with flowers. So I urged Aditya to replace the protestor from Vincent Yu’s photo with something else, as Banksy replaced a Molotov cocktail with flowers. After a day, Aditya proposed a teddy bear. We eventually settled on a Panda.

In early December 2014, as the #OccupyHongKong protest was in its last throes, China extended its ‘Panda Diplomacy’ to Israel, offering to loan its zoo in Haifa two pandas.  China has often used pandas as a way to extend its diplomatic relations with the receiving country. However, China’s relationship with the global ecology and wildlife is far from being diplomatic.

In November 2014, China’s top leaders were implicated in a massive illegal haul of ivory using the President’s jet. The news was based on the report ‘Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants’ published by Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). In it, China is repeatedly declared the global leader in enabling illegal wildlife trade. In July, EIA also reported on how China’s illegal timber trade is the leading cause for loss of forest in Mozambique. And days after the Panda diplomacy made news, EIA also reported how captive-bred tiger trade in China is posing an “enforcement nightmare” and “stimulates illegal trade.”

Political unaccountability has many serious repercussions for a society, and a global ecological crisis is as serious as any. In this piece, we have tried to express both these issues, while paying homage to an iconic street art.

- Kashish Das Shrestha
Curator, “#Occupy: an expression of global conscience”
Director, City Museum Kathmandu