LGBTQ awareness on canvas in Guwahati

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Homosexuality in art is not new and was existent even in ancient Greece where gay sexuality was not only celebrated but encouraged too.
In modern day Assam, an organisation has used the power of art to not only spread awareness on the LGBTQ community but also to bring alive on canvas the angst and despondency of homosexuals in the country.
Guwahati-based group Xomonnoy organised CanQueer, a visual LGBTQIA+ art exhibition, on the occasion of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOTB, from May 16.
The exhibition, which concluded on Saturday, was the first of its kind in the state and the North East. The day was observed on My 17.
“The aim of this art exhibition is to make the society aware about the queer culture and the queer movement through the medium of art,” said Shivalal Gautam, a member of the organising team.
Twenty artists from five states exhibited 35 art works, each of which told stories of discrimination, repression, love and desire, despair and celebration of an identity that is yet to be accepted in many parts of the country.
Sawang Wangchha, a 25-year-old artist from Arunachal Pradesh, said homosexuals in his state have to remain closeted as awareness among people is shockingly less. “Most people don’t even know what the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ mean. For them, every other alternate gender or sexuality is known as ‘hijda’ (eunuch),” the young artist told The Shillong Times over phone from Guwahati.
Rudra Kishore Mandal, a Kolkata-based artiste who had earlier participated in LGBTQ art exhibitions, gave higher marks to his city than the northeastern region when it came to awareness. At the same time, he admitted that awareness is yet to traverse the class divide.
“My first LGBTQ-centric art exhibition was in 2012 in Kolkata. Almost all galleries in the city had turned us down. Finally, ICCR gave us space,” said Mandal, who exhibited three paintings.
However, the artist believes that more events such as the exhibition would go a long way to spread awareness. His painting, ‘Despair and Desire’, where the artist has used watercolour and pen and ink on handmade paper, shows a man’s torso, sculpted like a Greek god. From the neck rises a hand holding scissors ready to sever all ties with heart. The painting depicted how members of the LGBTQ community are compromising with their sexual orientation under pressure from a hypocrite society that refuses to accept it as a natural phenomenon.
“The connection that we are developing with viewers during the exhibition is important. When visitors are asking me about my paintings and what prompted me to do the artwork, I am getting the chance to tell them many things about the community and their problems. They could relate to the struggles of life,” explained Mandal and added that awareness in the North East is limited.
The Kolkata artist stressed the need for more exhibitions as “members of the LGBTQ community also have to bond with each other”.
The Supreme Court last year lifted the ban on gay sex but the country has a long way to accept homosexual relationships.
“The exhibition was a huge success. I had a great experience. To be part of Xomonnoy was an honour for me,” said Guwahati-based artist and poet Farnaaz Islam.
There were artists from Tripura, besides West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

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