Skip to main content

Trans Women Create Stunning Art To Help Community Get Food, Medicine

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each painting is used to buy essentials like food and medicines for trans community members.

A group of women sit in a circle. The paintbrush in their hands tipped with the most vibrant colours, creates gentle strokes on a blank canvas. They giggle through their masks, enjoying the work and gossip. These women form the core of the Aravani Art Project, a trans women's art collective that works on public art projects like murals.

Founded in January 2016, the art collective has painted over 50 murals across India and in San Francisco, U.S. But with the onset of the pandemic, all those projects that brought so much joy came to a sudden halt.

Artwork in progress by the Aravani Art project

"We are not the kind of people who sit inside. We really like being out, having fun, and interacting with people. The isolation that was brought about by the pandemic is the worst thing that could happen to us," says Shanthi Muniswamy, a trans woman associated with the collective.

But, this enthusiastic collective has found a solution to these problems by bringing art to people's homes. The vibrant canvases that they have been painting are up for sale and anyone who is interested can buy them.

"Half the proceeds of each painting sold is given to the artist. A portion of the remaining half is used to buy raw materials like paints. And the rest is used by these trans women to help others from their community buy essential food items like rice, dal, sugar, oil and most importantly, medicines," says Poornima Sukumar, the founder of the art collective.

She is one of three cis women in the collective along with nine trans women. The other two cis women are Sadhna Parsad, the art director and Aditi Patkar who looks after the operations. This includes handling the canvases, looking after the orders, packing, and ensuring that the canvases reach the recipients.

Art and life

Poornima informs that the women meet once in a week at one of their homes. On other days, they use technology to keep in touch and support each other.

"We had already been painting canvases on a small scale before the pandemic hit and the objective was not to sell them. We just wanted to keep ourselves occupied. But we realised that the proceeds from selling these canvases could help a lot of members from the trans community. Especially those who are not economically sound enough to sustain during the pandemic," says the founder.

Some beautiful paintings by the art collective

The paintings are a riot of vibrant colours and are titled Naavu Idhivi (We exist), Bloom, Looking At You, Heart, and Pride among others. Each of these pieces come with a personalised note with information of the painter. The group paints almost seven canvases in 10 days. They began selling their art in June and have sold over 100 pieces until now.

"When we began getting canvas orders, it felt like we were finally bouncing back despite the pandemic. Also, a lot of people think that members of my community are only fit for sex work. But the work we are doing has made them realise that there are so many positive things that we are capable of doing. This is helping us gain respect," says Shanthi.

Poornima and Shanthi both say that they have been getting a lot of love and support from people they connect with. With zero complaints from any of their clients, they hope that through their art, they find a sense of purpose in this time while also supporting other members from the trans community.

Sandhya, a member of the art collective took almost a year to observe and learn how to paint. And now, she loves being immersed in art. She shows some beautiful paintings.

"Aravani Art Project is a platform that has encouraged and empowered us. And, art for us is like therapy. I hope people open their hearts and minds to us. It makes me really happy to think that the colours we use bring smiles to people's faces," says Shanthi.

To support the Aravani Art Project in their efforts you can buy their art by sending them an email at or DM on their Instagram.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

Like this story? Or have something to share?Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.comConnect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Help us grow our Positive News Movement

We at The Better India want to showcase everything that is working in this country. By using the power of constructive journalism, we want to change India – one story at a time. If you read us, like us and want this positive news movement to grow, then do consider supporting us via the following buttons:

₹ 499 ₹ 999 ₹ 1999


Popular posts from this blog

History of Art Timeline

The historical past of art is usually told as a chronology of masterpieces created during each civilization. It can thus be framed as a narrative of high culture, epitomized by the Wonders of the World. On any other hand, vernacular art expressions can even be integrated into art historic narratives, called folk arts or craft. The more intently that an art historian engages with these latter sorts of low culture, the much more likely it is that they will determine their work as analyzing visual culture or cloth culture, or as contributing to fields associated with art historical past, akin to anthropology or archaeology. In the latter cases, art gadgets may be called archeological artifacts. Surviving art from this era comprises small carvings in stone or bone and cave painting. The first traces of human-made gadgets appeared in southern Africa, the Western Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe Adriatic Sea, Siberia Baikal Lake, India, and Australia. These first traces are general…

How to Show Art Work when the Gallery Says No Thanks

There are places in the town where you live where you can show your artwork when the big gallery you solicited said, "No, thanks."
Other artists may need to find venues other than galleries to show their artworks as well. Visual artists living in art-rich communities where there is a lot of local competition will need to get creative about display opportunities.

Or on the other hand, in towns without large art venues, it is important for artists to find smaller and less obvious places to show your art.

How to Show Art Work When The Gallery Says No Thanks

1. Show Where You Go

The most successful approach to finding a place in your town to display your artwork is to solicit a place that you go to frequently. Make a list of all the places you go to each day, each week, and each month.

Make a special trip, or the next time you visit note if the establishment currently exhibits any artwork, if it is local, and if it is for sale.

Also note if they have available wall space where a…

Book review (nonfiction): Form or function? In the history of poster art, the two sides are constantly at war

“Who takes the eye takes all,” said Mary Lowndes of the Artists’ Suffrage League in the early 1900s, neatly summarizing the need for striking graphics on the banners that suffragists were making for their marches. Lowndes’ statement could serve as the motto for all those who attempt to persuade by visual means, be they propagandists for political parties or advertisers selling soap. “The Poster,” edited by Gill Saunders and Margaret Timmers of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is a beautiful and entertaining account of the history of the medium, illustrated with examples drawn from the museum’s extensive collection.While handbill-sized fliers affixed to surfaces had long been in existence, it was the development of the large-scale color lithographic technique, with images composed of several pieces that could be pasted together into one picture, that made possible the explosion of graphic media campaigns in the 19th century. The first-rate artists who turned th…