Torn Apart

Aditi Raychoudhury. Torn Apart. Gouache. 2018
Aditi Raychoudhury. Torn Apart. Gouache. 2018

Separating families is a violation of international law and one of the worst kinds of abuse, and its happening right now in our southern border. So, why is a family willing to flee their homeland and risk it all? Nobody wants to leave their country of birth and extended family and friends behind and risk it all unless they fear for the safety of their family in their own homeland, and hope for a better life in the land they were told would welcome the tired, the poor, the homeless, the wretched refuse and the tempest tossed huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And here we are, not living up to that promise. I wanted to capture a family at its most tender and vulnerable moment – the agony in the hearts of the parents who may never see who they love the most and the bewilderment of a child as to why she can’t be with those who love her the most.

Proceeds from the sales of this poster support DreamCorps, a social justice accelerator founded by Van Jones that advances economic, environmental, and criminal justice solutions.

Save Climate Refugees

Aditi Raychoudhury. Save Climate Refugees. 2020. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Save Climate Refugees. 2020. Adobe Illustrator.

Shefali scrambles through her day cooking and cleaning homes in Delhi. It’s backbreaking work that starts at the break of dawn and doesn’t end till well past sundown. But, she didn’t always live this life of a lowly paid, classless migrant worker struggling to make ends meet in a large confounding city. In fact, she and her husband owned land, a store and a fulfilling life in the Sundarbans. But one day, the hungry tide gobbled up their land – taking with it their home, their middle class life and worst of all – their dignity. Her heartbroken husband tried to find work in his beloved Sunderbans but was ultimately resigned to managing a tiny shop in a tiny scrap of land in the Sundarbans, despite the knowledge that this too shall be fodder for a now hostile sea. 

But such is the magnetic draw of the Sundarbans, which I visited a few years ago. This unique region that is now ravenous for land is also great at stealing your heart. So profound is its tranquil beauty. 

Shefali’s story of loss and displacement is just one out of numerous others who have been rendered homeless by the rising sea.

The Sundarbans Mangroves ecoregion on the coast is the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem, with 20,400 square kilometres (7,900 sq mi). Sundarban (সুন্দরবন) in Bengali means “beautiful forest”, named after the dominant mangrove species Heritiera fomes which is locally known as sundari (beautiful).

The Sundarbans are located in what used to be my beloved ancestral homeland of undivided Bengal that was partitioned into present day West Bengal and Bangladesh in 1947. Apart from having once been a sanctuary to the refugees of the bloody partition of India, the Sundarbans is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the rare Royal Bengal Tigers, Gangetic and Irabati dolphins and other species unique to this region. But human development and climate change with its sea level and surface temperature rise, severe hurricanes and increased salinity could lead to the destruction of 75 percent of these mangroves as the sundari trees are exceptionally sensitive to salinity. This poses a threat not just for the survival of the indigenous flora and fauna but also for the protective biological shield the mangroves form against cyclones and tsunamis, putting the surrounding communities at a devastating risk. The submergence of land mass has already rendered up to 6,000 families homeless and around 70,000 people are now threatened with the same. 

In an ironic twist of fate, the progeny of those who found refuge in this bucolic setting during the partition, are now becoming climate refugees with no place to call home. While we can’t stop the juggernaut of climate change from destroying life as we know it, policies within the GREEN NEW DEAL could potentially provide solutions to reduce the impact of climate change and restore a life of dignity for climate refugees.

To have or not to have Boli?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Gouache and Watercolor.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Gouache and Watercolor.

When most Indians are celebrating Diwali and Rama’s return to Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana, it is overshadowed by a lesser known festival, Kali Pujo when Kali, a more virulent form of Durga, is worshipped through the night with great fervor in Eastern India. As a Bengali, I was very much a part of this tradition, and we would go out late in the night, to pay our respect to beautifully decorated idols of Kali, resplendent in her garland of blood red hibiscus flowers and demonic heads. We would have bhog after midnight, the highlight of which was an oxymoron – the unusual vegetarian goat curry. If you think this curry is made out of trendy fake meat, you are very much mistaken. Kali Pujo, predates fake meat by centuries! What apparently makes this curry “vegetarian” is the lack of onions and garlic that are otherwise always used in a traditional Bengali goat curry. The goat for this curry is comes from a male goat that was sacrificed at midnight, a ritual I was witness to once as a little girl.

We were at my dida’s (maternal grandma’s) house in Purnia. My widowed grandmother, was a devotee of RamKrishna, a Bengali saint, who in turn was a devotee of Maa Kali. She would take us to the Purnia Kali Bari at least once during our stay with her. It was a trip that I enjoyed very much with its rhythmically bumping rickshaw ride as it snaked through tall palm trees that had little clay pots strung right around where their leaves ended. It looked as though the trees had necklaces around their neck. I enjoyed looking at the daring men who climbed way up high with minimal safety gear to collect the sweet sap from the pots. The sap has a nutty smoky flavor that tastes a bit like maple syrup. It is mildly processed to make yummy nolen gur that went into flavoring my favorite desserts. The sap of some other palms were used to make toddy. What that tastes like, I can’t tell, because I have never had any. Most of all I loved the serene setting of this little temple by the river amidst lush tropical greens.

Collecting sap from palm trees.

This time we were in Purnia for Kali Pujo and yes, as usual, we were going to venerate Maa Kali – this time at the Purnia Kali Bari. Like before we jumped on to our parents laps, and bumped along the road as our parents hugged us tightly. Little did I know that this trip was going to be quite different, one that would be seared in my memory.

As, we disembarked on this new moon night that lay suspended between the end of Sharad and the start of Shishir, I was taken aback by the sound of prayers being offered to a male black goat. Oh, how handsome he looked with his garland of bright red hibiscus flowers shining brightly against his silky black fur as he was gently being guided towards the sacrificial altar. As the goat realized its ultimate fate, its joyful pride dissolved into trembling bleats which despite their softness, split right through this dark night. Oh, the poignancy of his bleats! I ran as far away as I could and shut my ears, waiting for that blissful serendipity of the place to return. A few short moments later, all went numbingly quiet, as the giant sword, swiftly decapitated this goat in one fell swoop. It was over – but not for me. I just couldn’t get those plaintive bleats out of my head. With my heart in shards, it became impossible to settle into the quietness of a Hemant new moon. The sight of that goat curry made me gag, and I couldn’t eat it. Even though it didn’t make me a vegetarian, and I continued to enjoy our Sunday goat curries for many years, I couldn’t forget this little goat – so happy in its veneration, so terrified of its ultimate end.

In the process of painting this, I came to realize that I had been so shaken by that event that I had forgotten what time of day this deadly ritual had taken place.

Much has changed since then. Activists have managed to highlight the cruelty of this practice and most temples now sacrifice a gourd instead of a goat.

But despite all their activism, eating meat and the number of brutal slaughterhouses have increased manifold in India. During the process of capturing this memory, I started to wonder is it really worse to occasionally eat a few small bites of meat of an animal that was raised with love, venerated, and killed with compassion and the belief that because of this great sacrifice, he shall be reborn as a human being than to stock up our freezers with mounds of beautifully butchered shapes of meat that bear no resemblance to the being that they came from?

As we ramp up to Thanksgiving, I question our activism that results in hiding from sight what we can’t stand to bear. As we gather around any festive table, perhaps what we should be most thankful for is the being that gave its life to bind us together around the table to cherish our friends and families, and nourish our bodies and souls.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Pencil on Tracing Paper.

Bodhon

Aditi Raychoudhury. Bodhon. 2019. Gouache and watercolors.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Bodhon. 2019. Gouache and watercolors.

When I was growing up, shashti was my most exciting day. We wore our first set of pujo clothes, and I couldn’t wait for dusk to fall, so that I could see bodhon , the unveiling of Maa Durga ’s face , as she is invited to spend time on our earth (Amantran and Adhibash ) On mahasaptami, the statue icomes alive as she steps into our mortal world to start her epic battle against evil Mahisasur who she vanquishes on Ashtami. She isn’t just brave and strong. Before vanquishing Mahisasura, she promises that despite his misdeeds, he too shall be worshipped along with her and her children. And, so, Durga pujo is not merely prayers for her, but for her children and even the misguided demon. That’s what makes Durga Pujo an epic story and makes Bengalis go crazy during this festival. Here I am with my mother and sister during the Big Reveal !

Celebrate Pride

 

These 12″ x 12″ prints are now available for purchase from my store till the end of June to celebrate #pridemonth… Orders fulfil pretty quickly, so you can carry it to your local pride weekend celebrations #pride2018#loveisloveislove #celebratelove #celebratepride

for the ladies:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/607501762/love-is-love-is-love-f

Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator.

15 X 15 Gay Pride female 2 2018 clean- ZOOM

for the men:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/607501762/love-is-love-is-love-m

15 X 15 Gay Pride male 2018 - cleaned up-01
Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator

15 X 15 Gay Pride male 2018 - Zoom

 

Love is Love is Love

Just a reminder that #loveisloveislove not just in the beautiful month of June, but all year round. Support the #LGBT community and ask Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would update our civil rights laws to provide all people with full protection from discrimination. #LGBTPrideMonth

Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator
Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator

15 X 15 Gay Pride male 2018 - cleaned up-01
Aditi Raychoudhury. Love is Love is Love. 2018. Adobe Illustrator

The United Faces of America in Layers

Aditi Raychoudhury. United Faces of America in Layers. 2018.
Aditi Raychoudhury. United Faces of America in Layers. 2018.

This GIF captures a bit of how each color is painstakingly layered one at a time to create the final image. That is more than 400 pulls for an edition of 100 prints. Anybody who screenprints takes it on for the love of it. Its truly backbreaking work.

You can pre-order this ltd edition #screenprint ed #poster of #theunitedfacesofamerica from https://lunaspace.org. Part of the proceeds will go to International Rescue Committee and Sister District Project . Big thank you to those who already pre-ordered.

Limited Edition prints of THE UNITED FACES OF AMERICA is now available for PRE-ORDER

If you downloaded THE UNITED FACES OF AMERICA for the Women’s March, I hope that you carried it with pride. I am now taking pre-orders for a limited edition, signed and numbered 3-color screen printed version of the poster from my Etsy Store. The first 20 orders are also in for a special surprise!

Basic CMYK

We, the United Faces of America, are stronger than hate, and will uphold justice and human rights for all. Here we are carrying our message in front of the courthouse on Women’s March day.

Oakland Women's March 2018.
Oakland Women’s March 2018.

 

Size: 16 in. x 20 in. Signed and numbered edition of 100 prints.

Order yours today!

Peace,

Aditi

Images for Women’s March 2018

Yesterday, a friend asked me for a digital image of the B+W screenprinted poster I had made as part of Agitprop. Here it is in 11 x 14.

Aditi Raychoudhury. The United Faces of America (B+W). 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. The United Faces of America (B+W). 2017.

 

And, if you want to print a colored-one – here it is.

Aditi Raychoudhury. The United Faces of America (Color). 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. The United Faces of America (Color). 2017.