India needs Frida Kahlos so that there are no Nirbhayas

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Breaking gender bias and stereotypes, Frieda Kahlo is an inspiration for women who believe in real empowerment. Who is Frieda Kahlo? And why are we talking about her? I am sure your mind is popping up with all such questions! Your inquisitiveness is evident as I also had plethora of questions till the time I met Vertika Kanaujia, who is a journalist by profession but a photographer by heart. She lives her passion for photography by making calendars and this year she has done an exemplary work of art, which will definitely stimulate the feelings of being bold and powerful in women. Here’s Vertika Kanaujia talking for the first time about her Calendars and inspiration, Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo is known as an artist who was her own favourite and bold enough to have unibrow and moustache in her self portraits. Frida knew how to express what she felt inside and outside of herself. She is your Calendar girl for 2016, so how does the ‘Surrealist’ painter inspires you? 

‘Feet, what do I need You for, when I have wings to fly…’

FK (Frida Kahlo) said this 100 years back, and the answer as to why she’s my inspiration lies in your question. She was ofcourse bold enough to say, paint, love and live her life how she wanted. 100 years back she broke all rules and lived for herself and today in 2016 we women in India can’t even decide the clothes we wear, the man we choose, the profession, the life we lead!!! I feel India needs Frida, we Indian women need Frida to help us understand how life should be lived, how by either hook or crook, attain what we desire. For instance, in her college when a famous artist made a visit, she told her friend I will marry her one day and so she did. Polio and then a freak accident in early age of her life crippled her body, but nothing, just nothing deterred her never say die spirit. 

00 coverBut look at us, a girl is rejected for skin colour, she is trained and tutored so that she succeeds in getting a rich husband. Right now as I sit to answer why Frida inspires me, I am amazed at the coincidence, today when I was playing the role of a journalist, my heart ached all day to report the story of how the whole nation, the top most court, the parliament, infact world’s largest democracy couldn’t get justice to one girl. Her rape & murder had shaken the whole country but now we watch helplessly when her rapist walks free to live a normal life. Then I turn to Frida’s calendar lying next to me, where she is holding a cigarette in her hand, laughing and telling me to be believing as- ‘Nothing is absolute, everything changes, everything moves, everything flies and goes away’. As a journalist I can only report a story, ask questions but photography gives me an opportunity to speak my mind, motivate and provide inspirational ways to life. What better person to be introduced to Indian women than Frida Kahlo. India needs Frida Kahlos so that there are no Nirbhayas.

Frida through her Art tried to break false gender dichotomies and became a revolutionary woman of her times. Her works were personal and therapeutic and influenced many feminist artists. Do you think one can relate to her kind of feminism today? 

I don’t care if one CAN relate to her kind of feminism, but I definitely believe that one NEEDS to believe in her kind of feminism, especially in a society like India where women are still being victimised by the men in their house. Even successful, urban women are looked down upon and thought to be the weaker sex. In contrast Frida was an epitome of empowerment even though her heart was as paralysed as her body. She never begged Diego for his love, when he betrayed her, she was shattered but avegened it by infidelity and homosexual relationships. fav potraitShe wore her imperfections with pride, never shaved her moustache and threaded her eyebrows, her ‘take it as I am attitude’ made her icon with an attitude. Not only me, but any woman who knows her, sees a glimpse of her life in Frida and hope to live her quote — that ‘we can endure much more than we think we can’. She was what many women can’t be as it takes courage to be what she was.

Frida’s frank depiction of woman’s psychic pain made her a feminist Icon. But don’t you think sometimes such gory images can be really disturbing if not motivating? 

‘I paint myself because I am so often alone and I am the subject I know best’- She said. 

Her paintings can be visually disturbing for us, but for her they were a true picture of her life and were influenced by traumatic physical and psychological events. Most of her paintings were made from hospital bed and were starkly autobiographical. In one instance, Heart-broken over her husband’s affair with her sister she recreated her sorrow by painting an unfaithful, naked woman murdered in act of jealousy.deer Its an unpleasant, horrible painting full of blood but it speaks her mind, which she said, was murdered by life. In each and every painting there is only a message of pain. Her portraits speak about love and despair and loneliness and pain—but there’s always an underlying sense of pride and defiance in all of her work. The Indian landscape equates the pain she paints, but with the same stroke she paints the eye looking with defiance at her tragedy and this is what’s missing in us. Its not just her painting which bear the shreds of motivation, but the circumstance which she battled and how she answered the tragedies of her life with a new masterpieces.

Which is your favourite portrait of Frida Kahlo? 

When I look at her paintings, the main thing I see is strength, even when she is a wounded deer. That’s the face of rising above pain. It’s the face of bravery against any odds. That’s a face that refuses to be defeated. How could I not fall in love with her? Her paintings are mostly self-portraits, and it’s a testament to her genius that she was able to say so much in so many different ways with that one subject. It was her eyes that first drew me in. Her self-potrait with a monkey is the one I fell in love with.  In the painting both of them are staring at the viewer, while monkey’s gaze is sympathetic, Frida’s looks suggest she is ready to defy any rule & take on any hardship.

You seem to be passionate about Calendars and photography and every year the themes of your calendars are very unique. But why only Calendars? 

I have been into photography for nearly a decade now but only last year I started my calendar series and the reason was very personal. During my childhood, sending greeting cards and letters was a fascinating affair and especially during new year we religiously sent beautifully hand-made greeting cards to our friends and family but over the years as the technology decreased distance these small pleasures of life took a backseat. So last year I decided to recreate that gone by era by sending self-photographed and designed calendars. After ages, it was great to reconnect the old way. I got a very good response and several contracts, so here I am again with my new calendar series. Last year it was yoga and this year it’s Frida.Yoga

What do u enjoy more being a journalist or being a photographer ? And which is more challenging?

I am a journalist by mind and a photographer by heart. When am in the newsroom flooded by the news flow, I am a completely different person, the passion for journalism has motivated me to work passionately in the field for the last 10 years. But when I hold my camera I am transported to a different land of colors, beauty, emotions. Both have a different kind of an adrenalin rush.

How can one buy your calendars?

I put up my calendars on sale online, buyers contact me directly. They pay me online or in person and the calendar is delivered at the doorstep.

Any resolution on this New Year?

I want to use my pictures and the message of Get up, be believing and live your life who don’t even understand the meaning of empowerment.

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