Skin is no sin: Kochi artist paints herself to make a fair point

  • Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Updated: Apr 07, 2016 18:55 IST

Even with a fair complexion, she loves to dabble in black and wear gaudy dresses, just so she can drive home a point. Kochi-based artist P S Jaya paints her face, arms, feet and other exposed parts of her body in jet black before stepping out of her house. Her aim: Get people to discard their obsession with fair skin.

Jaya is part of an artists’ group called ‘Kalakakshi’ that deals with contemporary social issues. “By talking to people from different walks of life I try to understand the issue in-depth. In turn, people also share their bitter experiences. Right now, I want to convey a message that skin is not a sin,” she said.

Kochi artist PS Jaya says she is making herself a medium to make a point about social issues. (HT photo)

Inspired by Rohith Vemula’s ‘2C barriers’, caste and colour, which he said divides society, Jaya will roam around the streets of Kochi for hundred days to initiate a healthy discussion on getting rid of color bias. She will document her experiences and sketch the reason for people’s increasing obsession with fairness.

“Being an artist, I am making myself a medium to convey my feelings on Vemula’s suicide and the incidents related to it. I feel an artist can take up social issues more effectively,” said 26-year-old Jaya, a post-graduate in Fine Arts (MFA). Donning this new role since January 26, she’s on a mission to sensitize people against growing colour discrimination.

P S Jaya, left and right, the two avatars of the artist. (HT photo)

How does cope with her new role? There are catcalls and nasty looks, she says. Most people ask me: “Is this your real colour or do you have a skin allergy?” Some people ask why I am doing this. And that’s exactly my intention,” she said, adding that such questions trigger the much-needed debate.

It takes two hours for her to cover her body in black (usually with kajal and other creams). An activist, Jaya also teaches at a private art institute in this port city. That’s not all: She’s planning to conclude her 100-day experiment by documenting the whole story through photos, video and sketches. She’s also planning a calendar carrying various moments of her experiment. “People only see calendars with fair-skinned models. I want to deconstruct the notion of fairness,” Jaya said.

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