A woman’s sexuality has intrigued and scared our society at the same time. We love it, only as long as we can control it and it’s not, you know, ‘too in the face’. So much so that we start ‘sitting like a lady’ when we do not even know what on Earth that means. Kolkata based Instagram artist, Manimanjari Sengupta, is seeking to change this via her sketches and illustrations, because it’s high time we stop being disturbed at the sight of a bra strap or some cleavage. This International Women’s Day, we bring to you excerpts from our chat with her.
Right at the start of the conversation what comes across as refreshingly offbeat is how she is open about her disillusionment with life that led to her going back to Kolkata from Delhi. After completing her graduation in Sociology from Kolkata University, she considered taking up law as a profession and did the needful in terms of academics for the same. All of this only to soon realize how she wanted to change how the society perceives gender and of course her first thought was to take to writing. For those of you wondering what this has got to do with her art, it was her urge to express what she feels about gender that made her pick up her pencil and paintbrush. Because sometimes where the pen fails to write, the pencil and paintbrush take over and successfully sketch.
Manimanjari Sengupta has been sketching since she was a kid and started making a place for herself on Instagram from around 2012. Her account boasts of 422 followers and one look at her work will assure that this number will only increase manifold. She tells us how her time in Delhi was cathartic, while her Kolkata roots helped her learn about herself as a woman. When asks if her posts are personal or political, she comes up with a quick retort saying ‘the personal is political’ and that her sketches are personal with political undertones. Adding a new dimension to the Delhi-Mumbai comparison, Manimanjari is open with her analysis of her time in Delhi and has us in for a pleasant surprise when she admits that she has always felt safer in Delhi than in Kolkata. She loves Delhi for its people and how they are impersonal but being as vigilant as Delhi needs a woman to be has her disappointed. It was this disappointment that in a way led to her art.
The city welcomed her in and people seemed to not be as hostile as she imagined, but Manimanjari faced trouble when she brought in a guy she met on Tinder and that was enough to bring out the moral police hidden inside of her flatmates. Now you’d imagine Delhi to be a lot cooler, but she faced a fair amount of trouble getting her flatmates to accept that her sex life is none of their business. We all know how PG onwers give women a hard time and coming home beyond the curfew time calls for not just reprimand but truckloads of judgemental remarks. All of this Manimanjari expresses via her art and we guarantee you her Instagram handle is worth following.
Manimanjari admits to being a feminist and being unapologetic about it. She makes a strong point when she says she considers herself privileged enough to be allowed the choice regarding her sexuality, while there are several women who are not as privileged. By privilege she does not mean money, but the fact that society’s shackles are so tightly tied onto some women that breaking free is next to impossible. Why does she choose to drive home that women are free to express their sexuality, you ask? Well, she hopes that via her art she would be able to encourage women to look at sex and sexuality as something independent of the ability to reproduce. She hopes she can one day inspire women to take control of their sexuality and be as unabashed and self-entitled about it as men are.After all, it takes two to tango!
This International Women’s Day promise yourself to never be ashamed of your sexuality and do not let anyone else govern what goes on between your legs and inside that pretty head of yours. Also, go follow Manimanjari’s Instagram handle for all the inspiration you need.