Artivism For Social Change: An Interview with Kaanchi Chopra

Indian "artivist" Kaanchi Chopra talks about how she pushes the boundaries of creativity and social justice.

17-year-old Kaanchi Chopra, a resident of Delhi, India, took the Internet by storm with her “Periodic Table of 90 Global Issues”, which uses each and every symbol of the Periodic Table as an acronym for either a global phenomenon, movement, or social issue. This was just one the many works of art Chopra has created under her favorite art form, artivism. “Since it is not a really famous form, I myself act as a propagator and love spreading this form of art.” On Century Avenue (OCA) interviewed her to find out more about Chopra’s art and the effects she wants it to have.

kaanchi-chopra
17-year old Kaanchi Chopra uses art to raise awareness about social issues.

OCA: What is your earliest memory of drawing, and when did you start using art to raise awareness about social issues?
Kaanchi Chopra (KC): I have been drawing ever since I knew how to hold pencils and crayons, which makes it almost fifteen to sixteen years. My first artwork on a social issue was in the fifth grade, when I had gone for an impromptu inter-school painting competition assigned the topic “killing of the girl child.” I drew a huge necklace of white shiny pearls, and in the centre biggest pearl, I drew the face of a young girl with two ponytails crying. Over her head I placed a heavy sword and made some blood drops originating from the same position. I then wrote, “Like a necklace is adorned with pearls, a family is adorned with girls. Do not commit this sin, do not kill girls.” At the time, as a ten-year old, I was honestly unaware of the term “female infanticide”, but I was aware of the extent of my imagination and my creativity, and that’s what I used.

OCA: Other than raising awareness, what effect do you hope to achieve through your artwork?
KC:  I would love it if my works could reach out to strategists and policy makers of the world. I would be humbled if they could understand that we could use art as a medium to break cultural barriers and visualize a truth which is far bigger than our race, our age, our colour, our gender, and our place of origin. Since my works speak volumes about the injustices people today face, I hope people they can amend the already existing laws or introduce more punishable rules and regulations.

OCA: How do you decide which social issue to base your next artwork on? What is the inspiration for your artwork?
KC: Most of the works I make are a result of the headlines that flash on our TV  screens every day. Real life stories of women and men from all over the world inspire me to work on a new project and raise awareness about their cause. At the same time, there are other issues like body shaming, menstrual taboos, and mental illness, which I am really concerned and sensitive about, hence I am keen on erasing the stigmas associated with them. I am also inspired by a lot of other artists and their works like Abanindranath Tagore’s Bharat Mata, Picasso’s Guernica, Shilo Shiv Suleman’s Fearless Collective, Banksy’s street art, and JR’s Women are Heroes project, to name a few.

OCA: Is there any specific target audience for your work?
KC: There is no particular target audience for my work, I have readers and art lovers belonging to different categories of age and from different parts of the world. The major reason why I am passionate and hopeful about using art as a weapon of social change is because visual imagery has a very strong and positive impact on the readers. Also, understanding art requires no skill, language, or prior knowledge. Hence, anyone from any age group can interpret the illustration or meaning and realize the gravity of the issue I have drawn on.

OCA: Where has your artwork taken you thus far?
KC: I thank the media for making my artworks and thoughts reach out to people in over 122 countries, but external validation does not affect me. What matters most is the impact I create and the mindsets I change. I have been working for Brown and Proud, an organization fighting skin colour discrimination, for the past three years. I am a part of Art for Education, a non-profit organization that raises funds for girls’ education by selling prints of their works. I will also be hosting a fundraiser for Make Love Not Scars, an NGO which rehabilitates survivors of acid attacks and other forms of gender-based violence and discrimination and facilitates their integration with society. I have previously volunteered for Make a Wish India, having taught art techniques to some kids suffering from life-threatening diseases.

OCA: Any anecdotes to share on responses you have gotten on your artwork?
KC: A lot of them! Some of them have been so pleasing and humbling. One viewer stated they want my works to reach the United Nations (UN), while another one asked for a full wall-print. It makes me so happy because people wish to see my works everyday and any number of times. A lot of them could relate to my works on body shaming and colour discrimination, and the response I received on the periodic table and acid attack story made me believe I am a step closer to my dream.

OCA: What projects are you currently working on?
KC: My book, a graphic novel is my top priority as for now. It is a series of comics and illustrations that depict the prejudices and injustices women in India face. Next on the blog is a story on domestic violence. Another thing coming up is a street art project on eve teasing.

Other than art, Chopra is passionate public speaker, photography enthusiast, and a fangirl of innovations that solve today’s problems. With a keen interest in startups and entrepreneurship, she wants to pursue Design and Computer Science in college to combine artivism and technology to create change. When asked if she had a concluding message for her readers, she stated, “I want to emphasize the importance of self-worth and creative thinking. For so many centuries, artivists have merged ‘commitment to freedom and justice’ with their ‘ink, lens, brush, voice, body’, and all other forms of imagination and have been successful in educating, empowering and enlightening others. Each one of you has been gifted with an extraordinary trait/ability which you must use for the betterment of your society. And trust me, if I can do it, so can you.”

You can find more on Chopra’s work and follow her blog here.

Get a glimpse of Chopra’s work here:

Periodic Table of 90 Global Issues.
...each and every symbol of the elements in the Periodic Table was an acronym of a global issue. It could be expanded to form a word which represented one of humanity’s worst vices. A few words in this table also represent the various movements and social issues which have gained a lot of attention in recent times. [SOURCE: Kaanchi Chopra]
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This article was written by Lathika Chandra Mouli. Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Kaanchi Chopra

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