This year, Ahiritola Jubakbrinda Durga Puja pandal in north Kolkata has dedicated its Puja theme to the life and struggle of sex workers, a groundbreaking concept that, in the history of West Bengal, had never been undertaken before. Celebrating the inclusion of all women -not just married women- into the sindur khela, this is yet another step towards inclusion on part of an established Puja committee. The 300-feet long street art that leads up to the pandal, designed and constructed in the theme of the sex workers’ life, is catching the eye of every visitor and city dweller. Besides the street graffiti, the pandal itself uses props, art installations and hand-made posters conveying messages of their hardships and struggle in their daily lives.
The graffiti depicts the life story of sex workers in general and captures the hardships and unfortunate circumstances under which they are forced into the profession. Labelled as the world’s first street art dedicated to the life of sex workers, eight pairs of hands went into making this massive, eye-catching, and extremely thought-provoking street graffiti. The artwork was unveiled by the members of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, the umbrella organization that works for the sex workers’ rights with over 1.5 lakh registered members.
Protests in Kolkata have always been staged on the streets and this Puja committee has found the most harmonious way to protest against the isolation of sex workers from the auspicious event of Durga Puja, and that is art. It isn’t news that the soil from Kolkata’s red-light area, Sonagachi, is an important and the first most crucial element for the making of the Durga Ma idol. The passive yet extremely important inclusion of the sex workers is now being expanded to social inclusion due to the efforts of such Durga Puja Committees.
Image Credit: indianexpress.com
The curator of the project reportedly conveyed that through the street art, they wish to fight for the basic rights of the sex workers in order for them to lead a life like all of us, celebrating and enjoying this auspicious time with their families. Carrying the underlying message of inclusion of every woman in the celebration of womanhood that the occasion of Durga Puja imbibes, the street art has attracted thousands more for its subject than for its vivid and eye-catching colors. Sonagachi, considered Asia’s largest red light area, is just 1 KM away from Ahiritola.