CONTEMPORARY ART SPACE, KALA GHODA, MUMBAI

ART AS ACTIVISM: TOP INSPIRING INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW

Sanah Rehman 12th Sep, 2020

We live in a time of increasing disparities and unequal societies. Not surprisingly, the world is in a constant state of flux and political turmoil. Hence, it is imperative to acknowledge that all our struggles are connected and that as Martin Luther King Jr. so rightfully said, “no one is free until we are all free”. Digital activism has not only proven to be a powerful means of grassroot political mobilization, but has also intensified debates on current socio-economic and cultural issues. Needless to say, art and activism are both built on the foundation of speaking truth to power. Since Instagram is the new source of acquiring information, many accounts are providing ample ways for people to stay informed and take action in whatever capacity they can through the medium of a universal language: art. 

It has become relatively easier for artists and the general public to show their anger and dissent, to provoke outrage and display a sense of solidarity, simply by being a part of a digital collective. Any one with an instagram account in any part of the world can engage in discourses and help amplify voices. As witnessed recently, there is a certain degree of censorship inflicted on political art but the positives of having a wide reach and impact far outweighs the negatives.

If you want to be a part of the change, follow these inspiring instagram accounts raising resistance through art.This list is by no means exhaustive and in no particular order of rank. 

Art of Resistance

Art of Resistance (AOR) has been at the forefront of disseminating news about injustices happening in Kashmir, Lebanon, Iraq, and Belarus to name a few. They curate a collection of honest, politically-charged art by artists around the world while also providing extensive background information for those not familiar with the conflicts or particular issues. In addition to resistance movements in the streets, AOR also shares information on climate change, disasters, misogyny, human rights issues and other socially relevant topics.

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By @madpaule_diaries // #ifwedonotrise

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Creatives Against CAA

Brainchild of Kadak collective, Creatives against CAA was formed in December 2019 when India’s contentious Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in the Parliament. It is a “repository to collate and publish posters and communication material that educates and opposes these dangerous bills-NRC, CAA, Trans Act”. These posters were an easily accessible tool for people, many who were protesting for the first time in their life.

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Poster by @pearl.dsouza

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Turbine Bagh

Turbine Bagh was founded by UK-based, Bangladeshi architect turned artist activist Sofia Karim. She has been actively voicing concerns after the Bangladeshi government arrested her uncle, the famous photojournalist Shahidul Alam, in 2018. Ever since, Turbine has shared art on political refugees, intensely supported the Shaheen Bagh movement and started a campaign of printing activist art on Samosa packets. 

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For Sharjeel Usmani from @rachelaabbate in Italy 🇮🇹 Posted @withregram • @rachelaabbate A samosa packet for Sharjeel Usmani. The samosa packet is part of the art project Turbine Bagh at Turbine Hall, Tate Modern by the architect, artist, and activist Sofia Karim @_sofiakarim_ Turbine Bagh is a joint artists’ protest in solidarity with mass protests in India. @turbinebagh_art Turbine Bagh: https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/shingara-thonga-kajol-missing-journalist-photographer-and-father-1893928 Sharjeel Usmani, a freelance reporter and writer at the news collective Maktoob. Was arrested at July 8th by police alleged that he had incited violent protests. Most propaply he was arrested because of his critical articles about the tensions between Muslims and the police in Uttar Pradesh. “Authorities must immediately release journalist Sharjeel Usmani, disclose any charges against him, and drop any charges in retaliation for his journalism,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York. Here the article at Committee to Protect Journalists: https://cpj.org/2020/07/indian-police-arrest-journalist-sharjeel-usmani-in-uttar-pradesh/ Read as well: https://www.thequint.com/news/india/amu-student-sharjeel-usmani-picked-up-by-uttar-pradesh-police-says-family-anti-caa-protests . . . #free #SharjeelUsmani #UAPA #india #TurbineBagh #TateModern #TurbineHall #samosapackets #politicaldetention #journalistsinprison #freespeach #critical #massarrests #architectureaspolitics #architectureandpolitics #CPJ @_sofiakarim_@turbinebagh_art #artistprotest #solidarity #artistsolidarity #ideology #contemporaryart #artandpolitics #artactivism #modi #islamophobia #architectureofideology #democracy #freeSharjeelUsmani @maktoobmedia @shaheenabdull

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Draw for Kashmir

Kashmir is one of the most militarized zones in the world, and has been in political dispute for decades. Draw for Kashmir collates art by Kashmiri artists and supporters of the Kashmir struggle, providing a digital platform for grief and resistance through paintings and poetry. 

South Asian Craftivism

South Asian Craftivism curates dissent through craft involving mediums like embroidery, textile art, wire art, clay models or temporary henna tattoos

Posters for BLM

It is estimated as many as 26 million people participated in Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. The movement, which originally started as a hashtag #blacklivesmatter by 3 women after the acquittal of a man who killed a 17 year old black teenager in 2013, is possibly America’s largest people’s movement. Posters for BLM help in mobilizing small pockets of protests by providing material support. “Defund the Police” is one of the most commonly used and shared posters.

Culture Strike

Culture Strike ignites change at the intersection of art, culture & social justice. They primarily share artwork related to issues within the United States, but occasionally go global. In addition to sharing anti-propaganda art, they have also mobilized funds for the marginalized communities. Their latest fund helps undocumented migrants get out of detention. 

Amplifier Art

Amplifier Art is one of the biggest digital art movements on Instagram. They offer a plethora of causes to choose from, for downloading and printing free protest posters. As they amassed a considerable number of followers, they ran offline campaigns to raise funds and awareness about voting smartly, environmental sustainability and equal rights.

Art Not Terrorism

ANT is a Philippines-based online gallery of work by courageous volunteer artists, all made freely available to use as an act of protest against the new antiterrorism bill. This bill can be used to jail protesters, journalists, and opposition politicians and is similar to the antiterror law passed in Egypt, Ethiopia and Turkey. Posters with #JunkTerrorLaw are circulated to reclaim the right to freedom of speech and spread awareness about the ramifications of autocratic leaders hijacking laws for personal gains. 

Thawra Artists & Art of Thawra

Both accounts support works by Lebanese artists, some of which were created during the October Revolution. “Thawra”, in fact, is the Arabic word for revolution. The Lebanese revolutionaries are demanding a total elimination of the current government, and many are making this demand known through their art. Already dealing with an economic crisis, political corruption and sectarianism, Lebanon has been debilitated by the recent disastrous explosion.  As one young Lebanese artist Edwin Eid quoted “I don’t know who I am anymore, I had a specific identity a while ago, but something blasted in me, and everything changed”. 

Artists With Belarus

Started by podcaster Urtė Karalaitė, the account aims to show solidarity with Belarusian artists partaking in the ongoing political demonstrations digitally. The art is mostly about Lukashenko’s dictatorial regime and police brutality with peaceful protestors. Belarus is known as the “last dictatorship in Europe”. 

Free West Papua

This account is dedicated to sharing art about the Papua conflict. If you don’t know about the conflict you are not alone – and you are the target audience for the account. Their goal is to use art to heighten awareness about this underreported occupation by documenting the struggles of Papuan political prisoners and the human right abuses by Indonesia on West Papuans.

Aurat Azadi March

Aurat Azadi is an annual political demonstration organized in various cities of Pakistan, initially started by a  women’s collective called Hum Auratein. In March, ahead of International Women’s Day, a group of activists, artists and volunteers painted a mural of two women as a tribute to sisterhood but it was defaced by thugs on the charges of obscenity. In Pakistan, even forming an all women collective is an act of rebellion. The movement has thus carried rallies protesting so-called “honour” killings, domestic violence, harassment in public spaces and wage disparity among other plaguing issues. 

Hong Kong Protest Posters

Hong Kong protesters might be credited with lighting the world on fire. Their consistent protests for days, weeks, and months, inspired movements around the globe. HKPP collates creatives from protesters in Hong Kong and around the world. The passing of the Extradition Bill (withdrawn later) led to violent clashes between the protestors, termed as “rioters” and the police. Art criticising police brutality, growing militarization and illegal detention of Uyghur Muslims  are some of the main touchpoints.

Boycott The CCP

Sarcastic and easily relatable, memes have emerged as a new form of art. Their shareability helps in reaching audiences who wouldn’t otherwise engage in political discourses. This account shares memes on atrocities of the Chinese authorities on Uyghurs, covid spread and the treatment of queer community as a tool to spread awareness. Considering China’s intolerance for free speech, getting this content to the world is an art in itself. 

In conclusion, we can also play a role in delivering social justice while being entertained on social media. The platform when used correctly can bring down regimes

Resist, Educate, Organize And Agitate.

Let us be on the right side of history. 

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