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‘The Almirah’- a project to capture the emotions of women during pandemic

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Vishnu Menon

4th November 2020

‘Happiness’ (Source- The Kerala insider)

The fashion project looks at limited spaces and opportunities available to women as a fallout of pandemic-led restrictions. The multi-disciplinary project- claimed to be the first of its kind in Kerala, as cited by The Hindu, merges- fashion, solo-performance, structural design, photography, videography, and poetry.

According to The News Minute- the project, conceived during the lockdown, was released through the Instagram page of Sharmila's online boutique Red Lotus and portrayed eight states of mind of women – 'happiness, sensuousness, thoughtful, trapped, sadness, frustration, anger and powerful'. The designer is known for her portrayal of feminism and gender parity through her artworks. In her previous projects- Mazhavillu-she featured transgender models, and in 18 shades of black, she used 18 black sarees to depict the various restrictions imposed on women.

The almirah is usually a part of a woman's trousseau as per the traditions in Kerala. It is traditionally handed out or is gifted to the newlywed bride to keep her personal belongings. This forms a link for the bride and her personal space. Sharmila uses the almirah as a metaphor to interpret various aspects of feminism.

The idea for the project spawned from the almirah Sharmila used to stock the sarees in her boutique that have stayed unsold as a result of the pandemic- she shared with The Hindu. The artwork depicts an almirah docked in a basement with a saree-clad woman performing inside one of the compartments, next to her neatly stacked sarees that lay unused due to the lockdown. The performance is accompanied by subtle music and poetry to aptly express each emotion. The docking of the almirah in the basement is a nod to the notion that whatever is left out in the basement is not much cared for—a direct swing at the state of affairs for a woman in a patriarchal society. Sharmila looked upon the different implications the lockdown has had on her and her fellow women. The initial state of ease provided by the lockdown soon faded on her as the situations have stayed stagnant for months; however, she addressed how some of her friends have had the opportunity to utilise this time to spend with their spouses. She also looked upon how the lockdown has caused aggravation in domestic violence across the globe.

The artist looks to install the artwork in an art gallery once the current situation subsides. The audience will be provided with an opportunity to interact with the almirah to imbibe a completely visceral experience and also to induce a personal understanding of the subject matter directly. "Once inside the almirah, they'll be able to see themselves on an LED screen mounted on the wall through the glass pane of the almirah as a camcorder records their activities. Being recorded and seeing themselves inside the closed lit up almirah will evoke a sense of surveillance. In this manner, the almirah in the gallery space will cross the boundaries of confinement," she said hopefully to The News Minute.

Ramya Suvi, a classically trained Bharatnatyam dancer, has done the solo-performance inside the almirah. Satheesh Mohan has served as the project assistant. Ratheesh Ravindran has done still photography and videography, while Imnah Felix and Anzar Mohammed have handled art direction and editing, respectively, reported The News Minute in their article.

(Sources- The Hindu, The News Minute, The Kerala Insider)

Edited by- Nivedita Dutta

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