Monday, April 15, 2019

In highlighting India’s cultural diversity, an artist hopes to find her own identity

Internet Culture

Agrima Kaji’s illustration series ‘Beauty in Diversity’ spotlights cultural identifiers of Indian states through portraits of women in traditional attire.

Agrima Kaji

Damini Kulkarni

In an illustration by artist Agrima Kaji, a young woman can be seen holding her head high. Her pose, deftly detailed by the artist, radiates confidence and ease. She has wind in her hair and intricate tattoos on her body.

The illustration is among the 31 Kaji drew for her Beauty in Diversity project. Each features the profile of a woman dressed in traditional attire and depicts specific cultural identifiers associated with different Indian states. The images, shared on Kaji’s Instagram, are evocative and endearing celebrations of India’s cultural and ethnic diversity. But they also hint at the complexity of social and cultural mechanisms, which define collective identity.

Beauty in Diversity began with Kaji’s questions about her own identity. “My grandfather is from Himachal Pradesh, my mother is from Uttarakhand and my grandmother from Punjab,” said Kaji, who lives in Hyderabad. “And I am married into a Gujarati family. I have very diverse roots and I have always wondered what identity I should put forth as my own.”

Any attempt by Kaji “to define” herself became more difficult every time she moved cities. “I went from being a Delhiite to a Bangalorean and then a Hyderabadi,” said the 28-year-old, who is an alumna of the Delhi School of Art and National Institute of Design. Beauty in Diversity, then, was a means for Kaji “to find my own identity”.


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