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Framed
December 28, 2018

Jas Charanjiva’s Mural In Mahim Represents The Wisdom Of Womankind

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

The self-taught artist, who was raised in Northern California and now resides in India, rallies for a safe and inclusive future for Indian women through her artwork

You know how it is when you’re a kid and the entire world is your canvas? You take a piece of chalk in your hand and go to town on every cement floor you see. For many of us, art later goes on to become an elusive friend — someone you turn to when the world weighs down heavily upon you. Jas Charanjiva, who spent half her childhood in Toronto before moving to California, was first visited by the creativity fairy at age six in the form of David Bowie’s music and then again, at age 12 when she spotted an interesting artwork on the bottom of her very first skateboard. From scribbling the names of her favourite bands on the sidewalk and getting reprimanded for it to getting featured in several documentaries with international brands for her inventive art, Jas has come a long way since moving to India seven years ago. The co-owner of Kulture Shop, a one-stop destination for premium lifestyle products by leading Indian graphic artists, is one of six artists commissioned to introduce her murals to the neighbourhoods of Mahim East by St+art Foundation, an initiative supported by Asian Paints. She chats with us about her ‘woke’ philosophies…

What piqued your interest in street art?
As a kid, I was enthralled by the skateboard scene, a fascination that reached its zenith when I received my first skateboard by accident at age 12. My cousin let me have a go at his brand-new Beau Brown Madrid skateboard and later let me keep it as a bribe for maintaining my silence when I took a nasty tumble on it and bled profusely. Soon after, I got ingrained into the skateboard culture and started consuming issues of Thrasher magazine with a fervent urgency. That was my first brush with underground art. I lived outside of San Francisco which meant I was already exposed to quite a lot of street art, especially the works of Mexican artists. I loved the fact that people could sometimes paint a wall without permission; something that others might stumble upon that could have been there for days or might be gone the next day. The ephemeral nature of the whole affair was kind of romantic and exciting.

What do you wish to convey through your art?
It’s important to me that my art always relays a message. It’s like holding up a mirror to society — I paint about issues that impassion me. You’ll notice that most of my art has something to do with women empowerment, equality or even just being kind and considerate to people.

What is the idea behind your work for St+Art Mumbai festival?
It is essentially a piece about the female and how she absorbs nature and gives out love and life. She is in tune with the universe and is perfectly balanced. What she takes from nature she returns tenfold, which would explain the beams of wisdom emanating from her bindi and the universe flowing out of her core. Women are responsible for the perpetuation of the human race so the fish and birds represent life.

Whose works are you inspired by?
I’ve really liked Italian artist Blu’s work for some time now. I find him exciting and daring. He expresses his ideas in a very simple but clever way and they always have an underlying socio-political connotation to them. I’m also obsessed with David Bowie. He’s been my inspiration since I was six years old and I will forever love him because he was always pushing new ground, being innovative and challenging the status quo. His work was conceptual during a time when the world didn’t understand it and I identify with that. I don’t create just for the sake of creating.

Can you pick one of your favourite artworks that you have created?
The Pink Lady, originally titled Don’t Mess With Me, which I created in the wake of the Delhi gangrape in 2012. I was very angry, just like the rest of the country, and I felt like the whole nation had taken on the form of a molotov cocktail. Nobody took race, class, background or gender into account that day — everybody came out to protest. It was like we were finally claiming that we weren’t going to take this anymore, that change was long overdue. I could tell that this wasn’t just another case that people were going to be astounded by and eventually forget.

I created the Pink Lady because I was tired of lashing out on Facebook through incendiary status updates. She represents not only the victim but the whole country and a brand-new attitude which is why she sports the ‘boom’ knuckle busters. She’s lived on through my other merchandise and people buy her for different reasons. Sometimes, it is to give hope to someone fighting breast cancer. Other times, it’s for someone combating depression who could use strength and power. It means different things to different people and isn’t that what art is all about at the end of the day?

Check out our previous piece in the series featuring French artists Ella and Pitr

Watch out for our next piece in the series featuring Italian artist Millo

For more artworks from St+art Festival:
Streets Alive
Only time can tell how long you can see this art
Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock Has Been Transformed Into A Gorgeous Art Canvas
Faizan Khatri Is Making Heads Turn With His Installation At Sassoon Dock
This Artist Duo Has Started A Riot Of Colours With An Imaginary Sea Creature
This Artist Is Turning Ocean Waste Into A Work Of Art

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