India: Public art project gives India's transgender community a voice

Dressed in blue jeans and a red T-shirt, with her hair tied loosely at the nape of her neck, Purushi moves closer to examine the mural in front of her. Then she reaches for a paintbrush, mixes colors to get the right hue of brown and gets working on the eyelids of the transgender woman she is painting on a public wall in Bangalore. Her deft fingers measure each stroke, to get the facial features right. It’s not something every artist painting along with her could be tasked to do. Intricate artwork requires practice and passion, and Purushi has both.

Purushi, now 31, had not previously recognized her talent for art or dreamed of becoming an artist. Just like a lot of other transgender women in India, she only begged or did sex work for survival. That all changed when she was invited to participate in the Aravani Art Project, a public art venture launched in 2016 by Bangalore-based artist Poornima Sukumar.

Led by a core team of three cisgender (non-transgender) and two transgender women, the project employs people from the trans community to paint murals in public spaces. The murals’ themes represent slices of the trans experience and are a celebration of the community, according to Sukumar, who serves as director of the project. Portrayals of acceptance, violence, gender expression and equality have been painted in cities across India and on one wall in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Read more via NBC