Colour to highlight a cause

Colour to highlight a cause

The Aravani Art Project, whose work can be seen across the city, uses art to support the transgender community and break the stigma associated with them

The members of Aravani Project recently painted the Swami Vivekananda Metro station. The artwork is a tribute to Covid warriors. D H Photo by S K Dinesh

The Aravani Art Project—whose work can be seen across the city — is known for using art to drive home messages of social good. The organisation comprises women and transwomen who use art, specifically murals, as a way to support the transgender community and break the stigma associated with them.

Poornima Sukumar founded the collective after realising that a career as an art teacher was not enough. She left school after class 10 and studied painting at the Chitrakala Parishath. Interacting with the transgender community during a project, brought to her attention the difficulties they face and wished to do something about it. Poornima may have created the group, but, she strongly dislikes being seen as the founder, insisting that it is a community effort, and no single person, including herself, can “steal the limelight.”

Started in 2016, the group has engaged in over 20 projects across multiple cities, both within and outside the country.

In Bengaluru alone their artwork brightens up the walls of the Levi’s office, Microsoft, and the National Law School, among other locations. Refurbishing the city is only one part of the collective’s work. They also aim to raise awareness about the transgender community across the country and abroad, recognise and resolve the problems they face while helping them enter the mainstream. This commitment towards bolstering the transgender community extends to the project’s name: Aravani. It was inspired from the Aravani festival in Tamil Nadu, which honours the transgender community.

Their morale and commitment remains unshaken through the pandemic. They continue to voice their thoughts through canvas paintings, instead of their usual murals. While they have a large presence on the world’s stage of art, their purpose remains humble. In the words of one of their own, to create space for “mutual friendship” between the transgender community and the rest of the world, and to show through art that the transgender community is equally talented.