Maithili Bavkar

November 1 to November 8

Excerpt from a letter, To the unconceived, 2022

To the unconceived,

I write this letter to you, the unconceived child, unfolding for you, a world in which you have not yet been born. You have been looming over me in a spectral nature for my entire life. Yet, I do not know who exactly it is that I am addressing.

Where are you located? Are you just an idea, a thought, or the expectation of an entire community, not just my own?

I write this letter to you, to your potential existence, not only from my side. The wishes, desires and hopes of everyone else will be conveyed to you. The society, state, the nation, employers, doctors and priests are all interested and invested. For them, it is perhaps natural for you to be born, inevitable; anything else would be unnatural. They say that you cannot be forever unconceived, yet they put forth conditions for your existence in the same breath.

My body has been making possibilities of a child all my life. And every month, my body hopes and prepares for a child, not knowing anything about the world it is living in. My body is indifferent to the polluted air I must breathe and the rising heat on my skin. It is indifferent to the world that awaits the successful result, a world that will be quick to label it into rigid categories; that will constantly force it to comply with the expectations of its gender; that will not tolerate the mixing of blood and joining of wrong surnames.

Blissfully ignorant, my body continues to hope. And then bleed in disappointment. I wish I could tell my body to put an end to this monthly hope, just stop and stare at the world outside my body. Perhaps then, I could save all the disappointment. They say my body is apparently on its way to decay. The biological clock is rapidly ticking above me, and thus you, the unconceived, have been haunting me.

October 11 to October 18

Acrylic and pen on paper, 2021

October 4 to October 11

फणी | Comb,
Textile, 2020


Care (for)

Care (about)

(Take) care

(Take) care (of)

(With) care


September 27 to October 4

Drawing, 2022

How to grow hair in a jar?

Find a small jar that you can spare,
Fallen hair may be planted with care.
A second chance at life, no longer dead,
Far away from the always stressing head!

September 13 to September 20

For hair to be uncombed,
It will take more than
Running your comb backwards
through your hair.
You must remember,
how many knots were undone,
You must reverse,
the violent straightening.
You must drain out,
The pervasive oil.
Return the lice,
To their welcoming home.
Lovingly and with care,
Add the knots
Back into your hair.

February 22 to March 1

There is so much to carry on my body

Digital print 2022

February 15 to February 22

Sowing seeds, 2022

Digital Print

March 8 to March 16

Black Brides

December 8 to December 15

Black Brides

The saree, which is the traditional Indian woman’s attire, is rarely found in black. It is considered an inauspicious colour for an occasion such as an Indian wedding. For me the black saree in this work is specifically a bride’s saree. In India, it is necessary for all married women to wear a chain made of black and gold beads called a ‘Mangalsutra’, never to be removed as long as they are married. It is the symbol of a marriage only carried by women. I used Mangalsutras and reformed them into vaginas, stitched as motifs on the black saree. The motifs, perfect at first, are shifting and becoming unmade and broken along the end of the saree. Marriage tends to be a focal point of an Indian woman’s life and she is expected to be a virgin until marriage. As marital rape is not recognized as a crime in India, women’s bodies are not their own and are controlled by conservative patriarchal rules of the society. Draping the black saree with vaginas, for me becomes a space to escape narratives written for us and reclaim our bodies.

November 24 to December 01

Paint my hands

The painting is a part of a series of hand gestures used in wedding rituals. The pattern on the hands is derived from the mehendi or henna pattern which is drawn on the bride’s palm. In these paintings the decorative pattern is a silver sheen on the hand. It is what causes an erasure and breaks the form of the hand. Thinking about marking as an act, and in the very act of marking one is erasing. It seems non-violent but may not be. It is quiet and unsuspecting, so much that what is being erased in the process doesn’t mind it so much or even put up a fight. It lets itself get consumed.

Maithili Bavkar is an artist based in India. She completed her MA in Visual Arts from Ambedkar University, Delhi. In her practice, she often engages with the uncanny through various mediums, including fictional allegories, poems, sound, video, and explores alternate possibilities for speakabilities through artistic interventions. Maithili Bavkar was part of ‘Chi Chi’ exhibition curated by Shivanjani Lal at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney, Australia, “Turf Water” group exhibition, ARTBAT FEST, Almaty, Kazakhstan and a solo exhibition ‘Black Brides’ in Clark House Initiative, Mumbai in 2018.

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