By Anna Lynn
Thirty-six holds the weight of a certain womanhood. It becomes an age of pain, of worry and of hard realisations. In tracing the works of Frida Kahlo, Nilima Sheikh and Arpita Singh, whose thirties defined the way their art practice took shape, I find thirty-six ways of womanhood. The pain of their womanhood, expressed, comes with six motifs—blood, birds, butterflies, flowers, letters and waters. They are full of scars, past loves, gendered violence, sanctuaries among the living, words gathered and an encompassing love struggling against the longing to return to innocent girlhood—where everything commences. These poems are glimpses into their works, produced post their thirties. They are windows, to the meanings I make of my journey through their painted feminist narratives.
Frida's Eulogy Adorn my pain with butterflies in your hair. Affliction becomes worded in the bedridden worms, of blue homes Married to man, my heart in her hand A secret comfort Hummingbirds glistening in the sunlight of a walkable, escapable past. A goddess in death you dictate colours into my un-worded bliss inversions of unborn blood pain and paint married unlike the lies in your eyes of pastels held captive to the disgorging, inseparable flesh of mine disintegrating in your gaze we aren’t mannequins to men their desires silenced our own archived for women to come.
Arpita’s Question One thousand Begonias against the folds of my saree stitched in time as I crouch, Frozen in the malaise of memory. Your words float upon rivers, maps to the oceans of a young girl’s crocheted screams. Can I buy a second? I shall pay you with my husband's navy suits, the colour of darkness and gold beads from my dowry, the colour of a naive light. What a match we were! can I buy a second more, of blissful girlhood?
Nilima's Maps of Memory Her tears turn to blood his mouth a scar, The death of my beloved, a blemish against forsaken land. Our knees carry footprints of aged trees, circling palm lines so, we'll recognise our souls on the other side. As flesh returns to earth, we are patterns— skins of leaves, water in our roots, rows of flowers, and butterfly feathers. They visit in the silence Of life unto death, They charter glassy waters, tense sodium lamps Of Water unto Blood.
I. Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, Frida Kahlo, 1940 (source: fridakahlo.org)
III. The Garden of Forgotten Snow, Avijit Mukul Kishore, 2017. A documentary film about artist Nilima Sheikh’s practice and her long engagement with Kashmir.
Anna Lynn is a research scholar in Comparative Literature at EFLU, Hyderabad. Her areas of interest include women’s writing, art and cinema. The anxieties of a feminine heart are a constant muse and as the Woolfian stream passes, she presses watered images into writing. Anna has previously published short stories and poems across various online platforms like Sunflower Collective, Esthesia Magazine, Gulmohur Quarterly and In Plainspeak.