Born Free

It was a month after the Delhi gangrape case. Miles away from the Capital, in Bangalore, Shilo Shiv Suleman was angry. The graphic designer behind the Pink Chaddi campaign which was a non-violent protest launched in 2009, after a group of women were attacked in a pub in Mangalore wanted to speak her mind and urge others to do the same. "I was sick of asking friends to carry a stole when travelling by public transport, or urging them to stay back in case it got too late at night. All our emotions were counter-productive," she recalls.

After much brainstorming, she resorted to social networking to initiate a drive where not words but colours did the talking. A community page, "Fearless" was designed on Facebook to urge people to use art to describe what being fearless meant to them. Leading the group was Suleman, who uploaded a sepia-toned illustration of a rural woman, with her hands folded, with the caption, "I never ask for it".

What followed was a sea of responses from different corners of the world, from Dubai to Chile, Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The 150 entries comprise posters, illustrations, photographs and paintings. While one entry, from NID alumnus Aditi Gupta, has a feminine and colourful dancing figure super-imposed on ethnic block prints, there is also a rare submission by a man. Prasad Bhat of Graphicurry, a web-based graphic design company, has sent a poster where a pink umbrella stands out amid numerous black ones.

Some of the works of art have a personal note attached. For instance, Dubai-based Shezah Salam has dedicated her illustration to her sister Shazia. "It is an apology for doubting her. Safety is important, but not at the cost of living your life," writes Salam, who has painted two nude, blurry women surrounded by faceless men. The caption reads, "I will not hide my body, my spirit, my existence".

In March, the posters will dot the streets of Bangalore. Suleman's friend Laila Vaziralli, founder of arts and music festival Kitsch Mandi, will showcase them as part of the Neighbourhood Festival. "We hope to take the work to other cities as well. Imagine looking at these posters on the streets when travelling in the Delhi metro," says Vaziralli.

For Suleman the campaign has been a learning in itself. "Fearless has taught me to face the wind and smile," says she.

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