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The Kali Project was the brainchild of two women who aimed to give voices to the disparaged communities telling their stories in poetry and art!
Being a feminist is hard. You are at once labelled a misandrist. From ‘You want to prove that women are superior to men’ to ‘Does the modern Indian woman need feminism in 2020?’, there are plenty of labels, questions and even accusations.
As a woman, one is sure to feel burnt out, trying to find one’s way out of this imperceptible labyrinth. But what better explanation can there be for the need of a movement for gender equality in 2020 when a call for submission for an Indian Women’s Poetry Anthology draws in more than one thousand entries. Need we say more! These were poems on the theme of sexism, workplace harassment, reproductive right issues, prejudice against LGBTQ members, sexual assault, violence in marriage and forced marriage.
The obvious is made not-so-obvious when we look at the way gender inequality has played out in the world. When I speak of this disparity, it goes without saying that I talk of all gender identities.
But, as they say, the oppressed always rise with greater force. As more and more women and non-binary identities wake up to their rights, the arts are doing more hand-holding than all other forces combined. For the disparaged communities find their voices in poetry and art, their rebellion unfolds in a story or is simply strummed along. The message, always, loud and clear and one that must reach far and wide.
To bring to light the work of Indian women poets and artists and continue conversations around the deeply rooted bias against women and non-binaries in the Indian society, two women joined hands to give rise to The Kali Project.
A brainchild of Candice Louisa Daquin (Editor/ Psychotherapist) and Megha Sood (Editor/Poet/Writer) the collection showcases the work of Indian women poets and artists. It will be released in January 2021.
The call for submission piqued my interest from the very first day. Powerful, beyond barriers and empowering – that’s what I call ‘The Kali Project’.
I reached out to Candice to know more about the compelling project and its possible role in bringing to light gender-based issues. What appealed to me most was that the anthology doesn’t just aim to showcase the wealth of talent in Indian women’s poetry but it also feels the need to continually renew, highlight and examine the voice of Indian women.
“So often male Indian authors seem to be in the spotlight. As feminists who believe in gender equality, we both wished to create a platform for women – in India,” says Candice.
She adds, “Indian women have a lot of insight and much to say on their position in society, and do so with extreme talent. The variety, passion and intensity of the work we received really was incomparable and incredibly impressive as well as humbling. Indian women put so much into their submissions, really thinking of what Kali meant to them, or how they have been impacted by inequality. The power of these poems and artwork is very emotionally moving.”
For all those who keep vilifying the need for an organised movement for gender equality, the fact that an incredible number of poetries on injustice/unfairness of our system were received for The Kali Project. This clearly means that we cannot stop until each woman is free.
Candice puts it is rather emphatically and makes a strong point.
“I think patriarchy is like racism, it’s in everything even when we don’t know it. That is why when someone says they are not a feminist they are not understanding that feminism is seeking equality. It is not about hating men or creating a gender war, but seeking to create equal chances for both genders, as there is absolutely no justification for equality not to exist.
“Yet so often it does not. And there is a huge backlash against this by men AND women which is unfortunate but a reality. I cannot speak to why this is, but my personal view is only good comes from seeking equality and equal voices for women. So often men dominate subjects and women’s history is suppressed.”
Another aspect that continually points towards the need for more and more feminists to hold their ground (in the midst of the opinion that the movement is overhyped and we need more discussion around queer identities) is the sad truth that some contributors dropped out. Especially when they learnt that a large variety of poetry was explicit and there were some LGBTQ authors as well! Enough to signify the apparent prejudice in our society. The Kali Project aims to alleviate this prejudice by ensuring that everyone can speak and hopefully with time and exposure, will come acceptance.
I asked Candice if they thought more and more Indian women were seeking refuge in writing as it’s hard to openly talk about the biases against them. And because either people refuse to believe them or patriarchy is so deeply entrenched.
“Definitely. This is true in all countries at all times when people did not feel free to talk.”
So basically, the moment you challenge a norm which is largely lopsided you are charged guilty of staring a gender war. And that is exactly what shuts women down.
“Nobody (male or female) should try to suppress an opinion as long as it is not harming anyone. This is why women are afraid to speak up, and many of the authors in The Kali Project were afraid of reprisal. I would say until NO woman is afraid of reprisal, we have work to do.
“Gay women in India still live in fear. I have as a gay woman heard much about this since doing ‘The Kali Project’ and I would say we have a long way to go to create a safe place for gay women of India to be free, given we haven’t even achieved this in the West. So yes, they are trying to get heard by writing about it,” Candice said.
I have no doubt about the empowering stance of ‘The Kali Project’ by the end of my tete-á-tete with Candice. I have one last question though.
What do you think The Kali Project has to offer the traditional/modern Indian woman?
Candice replied, “For the modern Indian woman, it is my hope ‘The Kali Project’ will give wings to their achievements and striving towards anything they want in life. To be inspiring. Maybe to see one’s self in the writing.
“For the traditional Indian woman, I hope it may shine a light on what has become possible, and how change is not always a bad thing. Of course, you cannot avoid offending some people and I didn’t shy away from illustrating a wide variety of poetry, some explicit. Not to ‘shock’ but to ensure all voices are heard, from all generations and all walks of life,’ Candice continued.
“I would like to add that it is interesting to see how religion plays LESS of a part in prejudice in India than it did/does in the West. That said, of course, there are negatives to all faiths. The positive aspect of Hinduism has been very apparent doing ‘The Kali Project’ and learning more about Kali and her power for all women of India.”
The book releases worldwide in January in paperback and Ebook format on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Parthi, Ingram, Bookwagon. Indie Blu(e) Publishers who are the official publishers of The Kali Project are proud to be socially aware, ethical publishers who support diversity and the LBGTQ community.
Picture credits: Screenshots from The Kali Project’s Facebook page
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