FII Interviews: Shilo Shiv Suleman On Channelling Her Fears Into Creating Artwork

Set off Warning: Point out of rape

Shilo Shiv Suleman is an Indian artist, illustrator and activist. She based The Fearless Collective, an artwork collective which employs using participatory artwork in public areas, in 2012 as a response to the patriarchal narratives surrounding gender-based violence, that had been being circulated throughout the Indian media. This led her to be felicitated with the Femina ‘Lady of Price‘ award in 2014 and the New Indian Specific Devi award in 2015.  

In Dialog with FII, Shilo Shiv Suleman talks about her preliminary years of labor, the challenges she confronted and her private id.

Supply: Shilo Shiv Suleman

FII: It has been a decade because you based The Fearless Collective in 2012 after the Delhi gang rape case. Would you wish to share what motivated you to begin the collective?

Shilo: Ten years in the past, when the Nirbhaya case occurred in India, one girl’s story one way or the other grew to become a vessel to include the narratives of hundreds and hundreds of ladies. We had been all there on the streets with our fists raised, mourning the violation in opposition to a girl, however concurrently acknowledging our personal moments of grief. As we had been unfolding one another’s tales, there was not solely a catharsis however an amazing quantity of alchemy. There was therapeutic, there have been folks coming to phrases with their very own hidden elements, like hidden wells within them, that they hadn’t revealed to one another, maybe ever. As I might go searching people who I cherished—from members of the family to buddies—they had been all revealing their wounds to one another, in maybe essentially the most genuine means that I had seen in lots of generations of Indian ladies.

Supply: Outlook India

Parallely, whereas each newspaper you picked up at that time was reporting violence in opposition to ladies, the mainstream narratives didn’t maintain any house for therapeutic. All of us speak about change and revolution and protests, however really, for something to maneuver, it has to maneuver from a deeply inside place, it needs to be this inside alchemy that then results in bigger revolutions. Planets circling across the Solar have a deep inside sense of gravity. For me, listening to the tales of individuals I knew and didn’t know was that deep house of gravity.

FII: What do you suppose has modified in Indian society when it comes to how secure ladies are in any case these years and the way has your Collective’s work developed on account of that?

Shilo: Now, ten years later, I don’t know if I can communicate for what occurs on the streets in India anymore, and even essentially what has shifted or not, however what I can communicate for is unquestionably what has shifted within me, and the way in which that I view public house within the nation. We, by The Fearless Collective, attempt to be there for communities which are unable to fearlessly view public areas. Once we paint a mural or create a public monument, we flip up so radically in love with ourselves, that there’s no house for anyone else’s hate.

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The way in which Nirbhaya selected to disclose her title, we select to disclose ourselves, we select to make ourselves extremely seen once we’re not hiding, we’re not ashamed. And we’re positively not victims of our personal narratives. As an alternative, we maintain the threads of our personal tales. It’s not that we’re not afraid; we’re afraid. However we select to have the ability to fight our concern with love, magnificence and creativeness, relatively than buckling to our fears. 

FII: How has rising up half Hindu, half Muslim formed your private id? 

Shilo: I used to be born Shilo Shivanandan, which is my father’s title. Sooner or later, I made a decision to alter my title to Shilo Shiv Suleman, which is my mom’s title, as a result of I used to be being introduced up by my mom. So, I stated, “Why not acknowledge the matriarchy right here? Why not acknowledge that my mom is a single mom who has birthed me, who has introduced me into existence?” However I keep in mind six years in the past, my mother sat me down and stated, “Shilo, you don’t perceive. In case you have a Hindu title in your passport, you retain it. I’ll have taken care of you, I’ll have raised you. However there’s no purpose so that you can have a Muslim title.”

Supply: Shilo Shiv Suleman/Instagram

I had thought no person cares what title you could have on this nation. Skip to 4 years later being in Shaheen Bagh. Properly, tens of millions of individuals are probably stateles due to the names that they’ve, and due to all their paperwork.

FII: Would you want to speak in regards to the intersections between your Hindu and Muslim id? 

Shilo: I’ll positively say that typically I tend to be capable of think about that we will view identities in very fluid methods. Me being half Hindu and half Muslim is identical means that a number of mystical identities have been fashioned on the threshold of Islam and Hinduism, there have been no separations. Pilgrims would go from one vacation spot to a different and what’s sacred is basically what we have now to supply, no matter our spiritual id. However, the truth of the state of affairs is that proper now we reside in very politically tense occasions when it does matter what title you could have in your passport.

FII: Would you wish to share just a few experiences or moments that stood out to you when you had been travelling to and dealing in numerous nations in South Asia? 

Shilo: At first, we obtained an invite to Nepal and I realised that our methodology works over there as effectively—these processes of self-representation weren’t simply an Indian factor, they really labored in a common means. Then we began to work the world over, went to seventeen or eighteen totally different nations, and painted over fourteen murals. Pakistan, particularly, for me, was a really, very fascinating journey as a result of if we’re speaking about concern and nationwide trauma, that’s nonetheless an ongoing story. It’s a reckoning, like once we hear folks inform one another tales about partition and even what Muslim id means in India proper now.

Supply: Shilo Shiv Suleman/Instagram

So, for me to have the ability to go to Pakistan and paint three murals there was one of the vital fearless issues I’d completed. One in every of our collaborators, who was serving to us with visas, was shot in Pakistan just a few months earlier than I arrived there. It was maybe the primary time that Indian artists had been engaged on the streets in Pakistan and portray murals. Faces had been blacked out of individuals inside just a few hours of portray the mural, and none of our Pakistan murals remained as a result of we had been portray photographs of ladies on the streets and so they had been immediately torn down. So, for us to even make the try to color a feminist mural in Lahore, to color the transgender mural in Rawalpindi, to color with kids affected by gang violence in Lyari in Karachi, even that was a radical act.

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And since then, I’ve seen quite a lot of unimaginable actions round avenue artwork happen in Pakistan. However once I went there, the one avenue artwork that we had been actually seeing was photographs of Jinnah being painted on the road, or maybe some graffiti writing, however there was no actual political avenue artwork earlier than Fearless made its footprint there. So it was actually like a moon touchdown in a way.

FII: Your mom, Nilofer Suleman, whom you talked about in your response, can also be a particularly well-known artist. How have your interactions along with her all through your life formed your personal artwork?  

Shilo: My mom’s title is Nilofer Suleman. Nilofer is a blue flower and Suleman, a mountain vary. We’re very totally different from one another, regardless of us each being artists, and each being keepers of magnificence in some ways. She’s very meticulous, and he or she spends 4 months on a portray. And her work can also be not outwardly political, but it surely’s very inwardly political. And with my work, I can spend 4 days on a sixty-foot mural, and be like “Okay, I’m completed, bye“. So I are typically much more broad strokes, I are typically much more rebellious, and vocal. However my mom has a really totally different method to id and politics, an equally highly effective method.

Supply: Shilo Shiv Suleman/Instagram

As a result of whereas with me, quite a lot of the fearless work is about reclaiming public areas, making monuments for various communities who’re on the margins, along with her work, it’s a remembrance. She remembers the physique language, the nuance, the poetry, the iconography, the calligraphy, and the fantastic thing about these communities. So along with her work, it’s not a lot about banging a drum on the road as a lot as it’s about archiving and remembering the histories of those communities who’re now not remembered in the identical means. 

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FII: You usually discuss in regards to the theme of ‘female energy’ or just the ‘female’ in artwork and tradition. What does the female imply to you with regards to your personal inventive creations? 

Shilo: Regardless of not rising up with my father, the mythology, the imagery, the iconography of Hinduism, and likewise the spectrum of the female that exists inside Hinduism, for me was all the time very fascinating. So there’s an automated sort of linkage for me as a result of the myths are so lovely and so they’re additionally non-binary. With definitions of the female, I feel the purpose is to not outline it, as a result of the extra we begin to outline it, the extra we discover ourselves in binaries, roles and expectations.

The concept is much less to outline and extra to recognise that there are dualities and multiplicities on the planet, and it’s a spectrum of multiplicities that exists inside cultures, inside our personal our bodies, throughout the spirit, and inside vitality. What one tradition defines as female may have a really totally different definition some other place.