Design for Kashmir is a unique art collaborative by graphic artists across India to gather funds for the flood-affected paradise. Kareena Gianani speaks to its founder, Prathima Muniyappa, who has many a powerful design on her mind
You never know what emerges from the whimsical mind of Prathima Muniyappa, the 25-year old with flyaway hair and gentle mien.
Latika Nehra, graphic artist: I haven’t been to Kashmir, but the first thing that comes to my mind is all those travellers who don the beautiful, traditional Kashmiri attire, and pose red-cheeked, and the beautiful locals themselves. I wanted to show the ripples in Kashmir and a local Kashmiri with fierce eyes, who embodies the strength those stranded must have had through it all
On a regular day, the museum designer and heritage conservationist doodles art for menu cards of panipuriwalas and tariff cards of taxi drivers. On a particularly inspiring morning, two years ago, she urged her friends to write letters, which she then sent to strangers and developed it into the project, Letters to Strangers.
This artwork by Subrata Bhowmick, a leading graphic artist in India, is one of the 18 works that won the President’s National Award
Two weeks ago, at a Delhi workshop on designing Surrealist posters for a cause, Kashmir unexpectedly sprung up in Muniyappa’s mind, and with it came the news reports of the floods. Later that day, Muniyappa, a graduate from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, sent “thousands of emails to fellow designers, the alumni and everybody she knew” to build a collaborative art project, now called Design for Kashmir, which will be put to use to garner funds for the flood-affected Kashmiris.
Prashant Miranda, Toronto-based animator and illustrator: Last year, I spent a week alone in a home on Nigeen Lake. It was paradise. There was an overwhelming sense of sadness to the place but the people had kept the place alive through their art, tradition and craft. I hope that my artwork helps bring about some awareness of these inherently peaceful, artistic, beautiful people
“I live by one, simple philosophy,” says Muniyappa as she leans forward in her seat, “find your gift and look for a purpose to give it away.” The collaborative’s core team member, Unnati Agarwal, says, “The collected artwork will be printed on products such as dresses, wallets, coasters, mugs, sketchbooks, shower curtains, posters and so on, sold online, and the funds will be sent to Kashmir.” This week, the duo will register an NGO for the collaborative which will help channel their funds better.
Aditi Gupta, founder, Menstrupedia: My artwork tries to channel the beauty of rain, which happened to wreak havoc in Kashmir this time. The Camel Ink bottles floating around signify the message of hope I have for Kashmiris
Till date, 20 artists across the country — including Subrata Bhowmick, one of India’s leading graphic designers who has received 18 President’s National Awards — have contributed their art to Design for Kashmir, and artwork by many others is in the making. The duo is visibly stunned at the response. “A Dubai-based design studio got in touch with me and offered to rope in every team member for this cause. An artist who is eight months pregnant has offered to design an entire range of products — ceramic plates, home décor products and so on — before childbirth. A printer wants to print a range of these products at wholesale rates. I am astonished at how a terribly optimistic idea is just falling in place,” says Muniyappa.
Anunaya Chaubey, senior faculty, Young India Fellowship: Art explores human experience the way other media do not. It makes us look at calamity at a dimension hitherto unseen, unfelt. Here, I have tried to evoke the anguish and terror of somebody whose next breath will be beneath the water. I wanted to capture the immediacy of the sensation many Kashmiris have faced during the floods
Prathima Muniyappa. Pic/Shadab Khan
As of now, Muniyappa and Agarwal have dipped into personal funds and those of her friends for Design for Kashmir. “We’ve been working on goodwill yet, but we need capital once we begin production, of course.” Muniyappa’s friends are helping her with a business model and she is ready to roll out production by November 1. “We’re looking at sending funds by winter, because that’s when the region needs a lot of help.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to help Kashmir see a brighter Christmas,” she says.