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Monday Matchbox 10.10.11

Mother India Safety Matches

Mother India Safety Matches

A few days ago, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded jointly to three women- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and journalist and human rights activist Tawakkul Karman –for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

It angers me to know that it is still acceptable for us to discuss women’s rights as if they were different from human rights (to quote Hillary R Clinton). The general attitude towards women is always ambivalent. Women are simultaneously objectified and deified, both trapping us in an image that is not of our choice. Even if Sheila and Munni are all the rage, the ideal woman is always an ever-sacrificing mother.

The Bollywood film Mother India has always been considered ‘the ultimate tribute to Indian womanhood’. The film starred Nargis who played Radha, a single mother who struggles to raise her children, while fending off financial pressures and sexual advances from the antagonist of the film. In the end, she kills one of her sons to preserve the honour of her village. The image of a woman in a red sari- the colour of soil (or her blood?)- carrying a plough as though crucifying herself, has become a part of our canon of ideal women portrayals.

When I was gifted this matchbox a few years ago, I was amazed to find an iconic Bollywood poster on it- a crossing over of one art form onto another. Even more interesting is the image of Nargis and the plough on both striking surfaces of the matchbox- a new kind of doormat status for the still-sacrificing Mother India.


Mother India Safety Matches

Sri Lakshmi Matchworks, Sippiparai

A self-confessed junk collector, a greater part of Shreyas’s collection of printed ephemera consists of matchboxes. With Monday Matchbox, she talks about a matchbox (from her collection, or elsewhere) and its place in our visual culture.

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