Library exhibit expresses tragedy through comics
October 12, 2017
While comics are commonly thought of as humorous and easily digestible forms of entertainment, “Priya Shakti” directly challenges that assumption. In a new art installation on the library’s second floor, comic creators Ram Devineni, Lina Srivastava and Dan Goldman tackle heavy material while capturing intense emotion.
“Priya’s Shakti: An Augmented Reality Comic Exhibition,” leaves no misunderstandings to chance as it directly confronts the horrendous subjects of gang rape and acid attacks in India. In original form, “Priya’s Shakti” and “Priya’s Mirror,” are full-length comic books telling the story of Priya—a once driven and focused young student who is the victim of a horrifying rape. As a result, her family then abandons her and accuses her of shaming their house.
Meanwhile, the gods waged war against each other in an attempt to determine the fate of the human race.
The story concludes when Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and devotion, choses Priya to be the new messenger of justice and righteousness. Parvati directs Priya to “speak without shame, and stand with me. Bring about the change we want to see.” What follows in book two, “Priya’s Mirror,” is a valiant story of Priya living out that message and freeing victims of acid attacks from the clutches of a horrid demon.
Aside from the story, the artwork of each frame deserves equal praise. A fascinating amalgam of computer graphical techniques, each panel is as stunning to see as it is moving to read.
However, this exhibit is not without surprise. As if the story of Priya the superheroine is not enough to ignite the flame of social change in its readers, the voices of real victims telling their stories drives home Priya’s inspiring message.
With the help of the Blippar app, readers can scan certain panels of the installation and click to hear true stories from survivors of sexual assault.
These stories add a level of distress and palpability to the work. As a reader of the story, it can be easy to remove oneself from the issues, but as a listener, the frightening reality of sexual assault becomes intimate and visceral.
In the same fashion, on another panel and using the app, you can scroll through images of the numerous street murals Priya has inspired. All over India, paintings of this women’s rights champion are popping up as her popularity soars ever upward.
Both books have been the subject of numerous awards and prestigious recognitions, including its admission as an exhibit at Lincoln center as part of the 2016 New York Film Festival.
Priya Shakti has been recognized not just as a form of entertainment, but also as a vehicle for advocacy. The comic is officially a part of an initiative of the World Bank designed to challenge “young men and women to break through societal norms that lead to gender-based violence.”
The exhibition leads up to two events held on Oct 24 and 25 where Devineni and Goldman, will be discussing the role of comics in the struggle for social change.
Contact PJ Hummelt at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.