Rekha Rodwittiya: The feminist space is the very DNA of my existence

Updated: 30 December, 2018 08:10 IST | Ekta Mohta | Mumbai

Rekha Rodwittiya, an alumnus of MS University of Baroda and Royal College of Art, London, has presented a decade-defining exhibition since she was 30 years old

Rekha Rodwittiya
Presented Rekha@Sixty at Sakshi Gallery, celebrating 60 years of her feminist ideals
This was a landmark year for artist Rekha Rodwittiya. Her exhibition, Rekha@Sixty, was a celebration of six decades of her ideas, the focal point of which was women. "I have lived my life by a strict adherence to feminist ideals since I was 18 years old, and till date, this remains the most vital core of my existence," she says. "It makes the feminist space the very DNA of my existence."

Rodwittiya, an alumnus of MS University of Baroda and Royal College of Art, London, has presented a decade-defining exhibition since she was 30 years old. "I was on a residency in Stockholm when I turned 30, and had a solo show, in which I had a large charcoal work titled A Milestone on a Journey that indicated three decades of investigation [of her life]. At 40, I had an exhibition at Studio Barbieri in Venice titled Evocations that marked the entry into this decade. In 2008, I exhibited Rekha@Fifty as a celebration of the beginning of this halfway mark of my own life's experiences."

Her most recent work, Rekha@Sixty, was presented this year at Sakshi Gallery, in which painting after painting showed off a woman, sometimes Rodwittiya herself, staring back from the canvas as if she was studying you, as you were studying her. "The female figure as a central image is not accidental, nor arrived at, by chance in my work," Rodwittiya explains. "It is consciously placed as an endorsement of female victory - almost as a totemic trophy of the self for the self - to reinforce the embodiment of the female spirit as a vital axis to life itself. The unflinching gaze and the frontal posture demand that the viewer is obliged to participate and engage with her presence; yet, the figure remains untouched by outward censure."

Given her life's work, the #MeToo movement, which revealed the rot in the art community this year, must have held special resonance. "My own journey corresponds to a journey of change within India - some of which delights me and some of which has been painful to witness. Unfortunately, the art world is equally prey to the same circumstances of abuse through the notions of male entitlement prevalent in our society. Of course, it is shocking and, of course, it is unsettling. But then, one has to stare the demon in the eye and battle it out. Women in every field today are far more aware of their constitutional rights and their equal status within society.

Both rural and urban women are more emboldened to voice their grievances and seek intervention. The ongoing #MeToo movement confirms the non-negotiable insistence of women to address sexual misconduct squarely, without apology or fear." Much like the protagonists in Rodwittiya's works themselves.

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First Published: 30 December, 2018 08:06 IST

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