A NonProfit 501(c)3
What I enjoy the most about working with the women is that they are up for any challenge. It's never "I could never do this" but rather "I have not done this before but I will try." Many of them break age-old traditions by being the major breadwinners and decision-makers in their families. They take risks by doing things such as performing on stage dressed as men to dramatize the evils of domestic abuse before an audience of neighbors and strangers.
Recently they took on a new challenge and painted murals on the outside of one of the MarketPlace offices in Mumbai. India's slums are typically a confusion of jerry-built structures. They are a mishmash of materials and sizes and show the effects of wear, traffic and weather in their stained, patched and generally grungy facades. Our office definitely fit this description and was ripe for a facelift. Award-winning Chicago artist and activist Indira Johnson, who was born in India, met with the women to plan the artwork. They discussed symbols that could represent their lives, work and what MarketPlace means to them, and created a drawing incorporating these images. Then they learned how to use the gridding method to transfer the drawing to the wall on a much larger scale.
While the women were excited about this new experience, they were also self-conscious about painting on the public street, in full view of the community. Some of them were particularly leery of climbing the scaffolding to reach the upper parts of the wall. In the end, however, all of them were vying to paint at the top. "I did not know I could draw and paint, but now I do," said Mehajabeen. "It is like our embroidery, a little bit of us is in the painting," said Bharti.
Now the wall is a distinctive landmark in the community, a tribute to social change, art, creativity and courage - just like the women who made it.