Poornima Sukumar

Project 560
2018-2019

Grant Period: One year

Poornima Sukumar is a muralist, community artist and documentary photographer. She has studied at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat and National Institute of Design. She is the founder of Aravani Art Project with Priyanka Divaakar, Sadhna Prasad, Shanthi Sonu and Viktor Baskin. It is a collective movement working to enable the Transgender Community through art, awareness and social participation. The Supreme Court of India recognised the Third Gender in 2014, making it legally possible for Indian citizens identifying as Transgender to have access to all fundamental rights. However, the social awareness and recognition of transgender people are limited. Transgender people still face severe discrimination, stigma and systemic inequality. Aravani Art Project aims to create safe spaces for these voices through art as a social practice. In collaboration with the transgender community they create public art. Streets are particularly important for their work, as it is in these public spaces that the bodies of transgender identifying people are subjected to violence, harassment, social negligence and pressure.

As part of IFA’s Project 560, Aravani Art Project aims to create a year-long series of curated artistic and cultural engagements in Bangalore titled #naavuidhivi We exist. Bangalore has subjected to enquiries and explorations by urban experts, historians, artists, poets and story-tellers but there is little understanding of the city from the perspectives of the transgender community. This project aims to delve into the lives and histories of the community in Bangalore and the relationship they form and frame with the city. It asks questions about the city’s inclusiveness and socially sustainable past, narrates stories of the meanings of personal and public spaces that they occupy, and attempts to understand the issues of their negotiations of local networks, quality of life, safety and well being. The attempt is to see the city through the marginalised stories of experiences of the transgender community.

Since this is a year-long project, there will be a series of activities through the annual calendar. Members of the Aravani Art Project propose to organise one event almost every month. The list of activities includes:

  • musical engagement in collaboration with The Urban Folk Project in Sallapuradamma Devastana, Basweshwaranagar
  • a walk carrying the Goddess Yellama in the streets, along with people from the transgender community
  • a scavenger hunt in Cubbon Park, to reach the spaces that are ‘almost’ secretive to the rest of the society
  • exploring stories of intimacy, friendship and love by the transgender people 
  • a photo walk along with the people from the transgender community during the Bannerghatta Jaatre
  • Karaga celebration with the transgender community
  • Street play in collaboration with Sharanya Ramprakash and the members of the  community around sex-work in Kalasipalyam
  • a walk through the streets listening to stories of friendship, support and fearlessness from a trans-sex worker
  • a photography workshop for the members of the community
  • painting in and around the Balaji Bar in Majestic to raise awareness about mutual respect
  • a performance of Mohini Bhashmasura at the Ravindra Kalakshetra by the members of the community
  • a photography exhibition of images made by the members from the community along with a panel discussion and audio stories about the photographs in Byapanahalli

The aim of Project 560 is to unravel the many stories, experiences and aspirations of Bangalore, through artistic interactions, and create a sustained engagement with the city. This project helps to bring to the fore, a part and aspect of the city, which has always been present but remained ignored in popular imagination. Poornima has been working with the community for a long time and has found a place of trust and friendship among them. According to her such an attempt of bringing together people from the transgender community has not been curated on such a large scale before. She is aware of possible resistance from some members of the community towards her and apathy of the common citizens about transgender lives. She feels it is inevitable and is willing to take up the challenge. Her plan looks plausible and the budget is adequate. The Grantee’s deliverables to IFA with the final report will be audio clips, video documentation, photographs, an illustrated book, publicity materials and art work produced during the engagements.

This project is made possible with support from India Foundation for the Arts, under the Project 560 programme and partnered by Citi India.