Art falls under 3 categories: representation, expression and form. But, can anyone really ever  define art? Every human expresses their creativity differently and for different purposes. Artists hold the power to inspire in the palms of their hands and it would be sad if their precious gift was not appreciated.

In today’s world, where even a remotely controversial piece can cause a scandal of epic proportions, many artists tend to keep away from arguable political or social concepts such as sex trafficking. And even the ones that don’t, have to walk the tightrope between depicting human suffering, and being grotesque.

Leena Kejriwal’s Missing

Art campaigns
Leena Kejriwal, an Indian artist, grew up in one of the largest global sex trafficking hubs, Sonagachi, Kolkata. From the time she was a child, she heard stories about girls and women who were kidnapped and locked in different places. It was this awareness that prompted her to take action. In 2014, she launched “Missing” at the Indian Art Fair, a campaign that sought to discuss the dark realities of the sex-trafficking industry in India through captivating artwork that transcended the barriers of space and language. 

Street Art
Most people see street art as vandalism, and assume that the artists responsible for it are thoughtless delinquents. But if you look closely, it can be both beautiful and brilliant- a wonderful way to get a message across to a large number of people. Influential artists such as Banksy and Blek le Rat have used their power to voice the feelings of millions of the abused to the general public.

Human trafficking has become a popular topic for the film industry. Films mostly tend to stick to the “rescue” narrative that involves an innocent victim who is either abducted or sold into the industry, imprisoned and controlled with brutal violence until a heroic rescuer overcomes adversity to save her. They convey ideological assumptions about what is and what is not important even though its representation and impact garners a lot of attention.

For example, Taken, 2009, is a purely made-up, rescuer centred, Liam Neeson thriller. Human Trafficking is comparatively more realistic, and is used by organizations to draw attention to the problem. There are also brutally realistic representations like Trafficked, 2017, which makes you want to hate what you are watching. (Reference is made only to the plot-line and not other aspects of the films).

Change is on the way
As artists, it is important to note that opinion, law and culture are deeply intertwined. There exists a “feedback loop” which contributes – sometimes at a subconscious level – to popular beliefs about suffering or the criminal aspects of it. Art is activism, and has the power to affect change.

Contributor: Navya Sarah John