As I run a campaign, The 50 Million Missing, to raise global awareness about India’s female gendercide, one of the things I find I need to do, is highlight that this gendercide is not limited to India. It is happening in Indian communities in the West too. In countries like the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Norway. See this article I wrote on Pickled Politics.
Recently, I interviewed Indo-Canadian, feminist artist Soraya Nulliah, for The 50 Million Missing’s blog, Gender Bytes. Soraya has been using her art to raise awareness about the hidden gendercide in Indo-Canadian communities and the violence it entails. In 2006 she held a solo exhibition titled ‘SHAKTI’ on this theme, at the Nina Haggerty Centre in Edmonton, Canada. As one review of her exhibition pointed out: “Under the rich textures and colour, there is a sad theme: the reality of violence against women…”
Below is my extremely inspiring interview with Soraya. All the paintings in the post are by Soraya Nulliah.
Rita: Your family is of Indian origin, but you grew up in South Africa and Canada and now live in the United States. So why did you choose the subject of violence against Indian women as the theme for your paintings and your exhibition?
SORAYA: I am an Indian woman and a survivor of an abusive and violent childhood. So the issue of violence is first of all very personal to me. I know what its’ like to be an abused child, to perpetually live in fear, humiliation and disempowerment. Rita, I remember this clearly even now, so many years later. One day (I was about 17) after my “father” had beaten me up, my “mother” came into my room after and said “Soraya…we have to put up with this…we are Indian women.” And I said to her “you make a choice to put up with it…I don’t“. I spent about 4-5 months at the Youth Emergency Shelter because “home” wasn’t a safe place for me (I was still in high school). Here was my “mother” who was supposed to be my protector, telling me to accept abuse. This pivotal experience changed me because I realized that my silence does not protect me; it weakens me.
While the issue of violence is personal to me, I also know it’s a common experience for so many others, especially women in the Indian community. Every single friend I have in the Indo-Canadian communities either came from an abusive family or was in an abusive marriage, or both.
Everything your campaign against female gendercide in India addresses is happening to Indian women outside of India as well! When I was attending University in Canada, there was an incident near our town of an Indian man who went down to the basement and chopped his wife’s head off while their children were upstairs!!! Read the rest of the interview here