Menstruation is currently the great fault line in Indian religious discourse. The rift is deep in Sabarimala and Shani Shignapur. And even Haji Ali Dargah is guilty as charged.
But artist Megha Joshi brings an ironic twist in the tale: representing labias made of jyots or oil lamp wicks, soaked in vermillion (kumkum), she manages to use ritualistic paraphernalia in her crusade against the unequal practices perpetrated by religion.
Joshi’s Red Series numbered II to V, uses watercolour, vermillion, and cotton wicks as materials. She uses the concept of jap or repetitive chanting – a manner of prayer in many religions – and applies it to her work by sticking thousands of wicks by hand.
Her work was displayed by gallery Art Konsult at the recently concluded India Art Fair.
The iconography hits hard. Especially when you are faced with this artwork from The Wound series, which shows a stream of wicks in place of menstrual blood trickling between the legs.
Joshi informs us that she has always been interested in the intersection of gender, religion and ritual. The artist, who turned to full-time practice in 2008 after working in television for long, has been a part of over 50 international shows, residencies and various India Art Fair editions.
Joshi categorically emphasises that her work doesn’t mean to offend. She is just using this treatment as an exercise to critique the lack of reform in religions.
Joshi knows she doesn’t have the answers, but at least, she is raising strong questions.