© Photo: Courtesy of Monica Jahan Bose

Storytelling with Sharis: Artivist Monica Jahan Bose creates 'climate hope'

By Nylah Shah –
A painting titled “Water (Cyclone)” was the first of Monica Jahan Bose’s works I’d ever laid eyes on.

Displayed at the residence of the US ambassador to Bangladesh as part of the US State Department’s Art in Embassies programme, it depicts a woman swept up by the turbulent waters during a cyclonic storm. It incorporates designs from kantha stitching and is lined by a shari border which reads “pani” and “jal.”

The woman in the painting is none other than Monica’s grandmother hailing from Katakhali, Barobaishdia Island in Patuakhali – someone who has deeply inspired her.

“When I started making art about climate change in my paintings for the Water series, I tried to portray my nani (grandmother) as she was – floating and vulnerable but also powerful, because she is a cyclone survivor. She even lost her baby during a devastating cyclone,” said Monica.

Monica had just wrapped up her “Climate Sari Workshop” at the EMK Centre recently when we sat down for a cup of tea. She reflected on how she drew inspiration from not only her nani and her mother, but also the women of her own ancestral island village.

This Bangladeshi-American artist and climate activist has been dedicatedly creating “climate hope,” engaging thousands of people across the globe – spanning painting, printmaking, film, performance, and installation – highlighting the intersection of climate, racial, gender and economic injustice.

“My ongoing decade-long collaborative art and advocacy project ‘Storytelling with Saris’ uses this pre-colonial garment as a vehicle to speak about climate change and its disparate impacts on women,” she said.

AuthorThe Business Standard