The revolution begins at home.

South Asian women are often portrayed as meek and quietly suffering. When we are praised for our strength, it is often in the guise of strength in our silences, swallowing and accepting suppression.

Artist Tara Anand looked back into our history to defy this stereotype with her series “I am no man.” Her pieces are portraits of historically renowned South Asian women.

She intricately draws the details of each figures face, not hiding these women’s strengths behind any softness, any blurring of lines. Each woman stands alone, starkly drawn out and painted in strong reds and pinks, against a backdrop of basanti.

The portraits are a reminder of her own history. Inspired by her interest in strong femininity, she took to art to pay an homage to these impressive South Asian women.

“I recently went abroad for a course and we had a conversation about powerful queens in history,” Anand told Kajal. “I was surprised at how many of the names I rattled off were Western women.”

Jhansi Ki Rani

Each portrait has a woman, a historical event, a story and lineage wrapped into it.

“The [pieces were] responding to my own ignorance as well as the prevailing sentiment that any ‘progressive,’ ‘liberal’ forms of feminism prevalent in India had to be brought to us by Western feminists,” Anand said.

“The notion that countries like India and their women are backward and need saving [through] Western feminism is what I wanted to dispute. I’m saying that strong women have always existed in India. We don’t need you to teach us how to be strong.”

The roots of Anand’s art practice begin in her own family’s history.

“One needn’t even start with the great warrior heroes who fought for their communities, just ask your grandmother, or ask her about her grandmother, and you’ll see that women have always had something to fight against, and have always faced it head on,” she said.

Left to right: Ahilyabai Holkar, Begum Samru, Belwadi Mallamma
Bibi Dalair Kaur and Cahndbibi
Maharani Tarabai and Nagamma
Onake Obavva and Rani Mangammal
Left to right: Rani Rudrama Devi, Rani Velu Nachiyar, and Rani Kittur Chennamma