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Checking Patriarchy and Dogma Through the Art of the GIF

A young Indian artist aims first to make you laugh and then make you think.

Using the image of a woman murdering her husband as a means to address gender imbalances could definitely be a jarring choice, but throw in some goofy animation and it becomes a lot more palatable. This is the route that artist Adrita Das has taken as she's pushed for the rights of women and the LGBTQ communities in her home country of India.

By creating clever GIFs and Photoshopped artwork of women stomping out oppressors and enjoying themselves publicly without judgement, she's sneaking her ideals into the public mindset. Her most popular series is Gods Taking Selfies, which features Hindu and Buddhist deities (and pop royalty from the subcontinent) gleefully snapping pics of themselves and their friends.

The imagery draws on centuries of Southeast Indian visual language, and nothing is off limits. Traditional Indian movements like Warli and Madhubani are thrown in the mix with local advertising styles and portraits of psychedelic pop stars. The result is a crash course in religion, art, and politics that puts women at the forefront for the Age of the Feed.

"In a country like India, even acknowledging misogyny and patriarchy in everyday life is a task, since a lot of people would much rather carry on with the status quo," Das tells The Creators Project. "However, I feel that instead of throwing big words or opinions at people (which generally agitates them), subtly planting the idea through artistic interventions may go a long way." It also helps, she adds, to create work you believe in.

Based in Pune, India, a city outside of Bombay, Das' work is steeped in local culture, and as such, it gets more attention from those familiar with and engaged in it. But quality work is quality work, which means that attention to her art has bled beyond her borders into the global community.

"Over the past few years, I’ve found that the West is genuinely fascinated by how starkly different South Asian scriptures and iconography look," the 24-year-old artist explains. "I try to keep my content as universally relevant as possible, and sometimes have to stop myself from making esoteric jokes."

The religious community hasn't entirely gotten the joke, however, and there was something of a backlash, mainly from right-wing Hindu groups who felt that Hindu Gods taking selfies was in some way disrespecting the community. She points to this blog post as an example, finding some humor in it at the same time. Although she considers herself an atheist, she does not mean to disrespect those who are not. "I have a longstanding fascination and respect for religion," she says. "It has grown to be such a comprehensive phenomenon that affects all our lives so deeply."

"The overarching message usually is to not take ourselves too seriously," she continues. In a sense, the humor is a message in itself, and more than just a medium. There is, after all, truth in jest.

For more of Des’s work check her Behance profile here.

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