DTU Times interviewed Leena Kejriwal, an author, photographer and an installation artist, who was invited as a speaker at TEDxDTU'19.
You are an accomplished artist and a talented photographer. How and when did you decide you wanted to pursue your interests as a professional?
I used to enjoy playing with the light and shade as a young artist. I loved how the camera behaved in the low depth of field and started pursuing a diploma in photography that taught me the basics such as aperture, shutter speed, etc. I picked up photography in the early days and was excited to create art though my lens and since then the camera has been my tool.
You have visited several countries and cultures, and have been part of several exchange programs. How do you think this exposure has affected your art and personality?
I believe that exposure is always a good thing. Although, its not only about going abroad but also much you go within. It is necessary for a person to dig in deeper into one’s own thought process to simplify his or her own thoughts. I did understand the basic medium of public art by travelling but what I consider to be more virtuous is my inner journey that defined my character as an artist and a person, and eventually led to the creation of the Missing Silhouette.
When did you get inspired to start the Missing Project?
As I mentioned in my talk, I was deeply sensitive to the plight of the girl standing near the red light and I realised that I wanted to pursue that intense vulnerability in my artwork. At the time, I was creating complicated installations when I realised that I wanted to talk to the public outside and not just limited to gallery spaces. I decided to pursue public art as it would transcend any language barriers, convey the message equally and would be comprehended by all groups of people belonging to any community. This led to the start of the Missing Silhouette.
You talked about the technological aspects and the conditioning of girls as a factor that contributes to their vulnerability. What changes, according to you, are required by parents and the concerned authorities?
Technology is changing rapidly nowadays. Recently, I was attending a cyber security conference and the major opinion was that if we don’t catch up with the traffickers, they are going to go well beyond our means. However, this shouldn’t stop conscious people from working towards the welfare of society. Parents play a major role in mentoring the next generation about the issues concerning online safety. There should be an agenda and proper guidelines on how to stay protected online and what elements should be avoided. Each and every child must be made aware of his online privacy and it should be made a basic part of one’s life. If we are accustomed to use these social media platforms regularly, we should carefully understand and educate ourselves about the dos and don’ts.
What steps according to you should be taken for the victims of trafficking? What can be done to ensure they lead a better life?
One needs to immediately shift the blame onto the exploiter and not on the exploited. We need to change some of the phrases that have become common in our language today that resemble an old patriarchal structure. Everyone is aware of their freedom of speech and human rights, whether it be in an urban city or a rural area. I think that daily soaps are a playing a great role of turning everyone into thinkers. Shows and serials question redundant systems such as the caste system in our country. All of these points create a leveraging space for making girls realise that they are of equal importance in the modern society and to root out long standing patriarchal values that often contribute to human trafficking.