Artspeak: Why the personal still remains political
Shajan, who also works as an associate director to a Chennai based filmmaker, does not wish to disclose the real reasons for the actions of his kin.
CHENNAI: I saw my pencil sketches burn right before my eyes. They just took all of my art and burned them to ashes. I stood there numb and motionless. I had imagined then that the artist in me had died on that traumatic day,” says Shajan Kavitha, 29-year-old digital illustrator, who goes by the moniker Shajan Kafka online and identifies as an artist working at the intersection of modern day politics, civil liberties and social justice.
The aforementioned incident pertains to his childhood, a precocious one at that, when his creations had run afoul of the ideologies nurtured by some of his relatives, who destroyed his sketches. This harrowing memory momentarily drove him away from art.
Shajan, who also works as an associate director to a Chennai based filmmaker, does not wish to disclose the real reasons for the actions of his kin. He says he got on with his life while pursuing higher study and then eventually work. “I am very passionate about my ideologies and my politics. Having an IT job and attending protests and other political rallies became taxing for me. That is why I quit my job to become a full-time, independent digital illustrator, a job that lets me take part in protests and rallies,” he says.
Talking about how art happened to come back into his life, he says it all started when he began therapy. “My therapist told me that there seems to be something that I used to enjoy doing in the past and that I discontinued it. It then struck me that I had abandoned my art abruptly. I continued with my passion and since that day, I feel all my pain and scars have healed. I am so much more at peace,” he says.
Shajan’s art, which is political in form, celebrates the people of the past and present, who have managed to make a difference to society. He is also deeply interested in the welfare of the Dalit community in India, a topic that he feels has still not been given the due importance it deserves. “The works of BR Ambedkar, Periyar, and Karl Marx have had a huge impact on me. I am one with their ideologies. Naturally, aspects of them will reflect in my art,” he says. Shajan believes that art is the easiest way to reach the masses. He says through his art, he is able to share the ideologies of his idols in a way that is more appealing to the masses. “Political art is a revolution in itself,” he says.
Shajan aspires to become a filmmaker soon. He says, “I want to make a children’s comic featuring my idols. Through comics, I intend to talk about the lives of these great people and illustrate their ideology in a way that’s easy for the youngsters to understand. I could probably portray Ambedkar as a superhero,” he signs off.*