Art: The new language of protest

by tybmmjourno

World over, art is becoming the new language for protesters. In the form of graffiti, cartoons, advertising, morphed and edited photographs, more and more people are showing discontent against governments, superpowers and corporates. Basically, anyone in power. Apart from this, religious beliefs are also a favorite among these ‘protesters’. These ‘protesters’ include anyone and everyone who want to make a change. It is done mainly to make people aware of the reality around them. Art is a convenient yet effective way to raise a voice. It is accessible to one and all. Anyone with an imagination can use art to put forth a message. And if used effectively, it can be used to put forth a message better than any other means.

On a wall of a former Soviet prison in Estonia

Messages against the war written on Egyptian prison walls to protest against wars, graffiti against paid media in America, fashion brand advertisements against Hijabization in France, morphed pictures against politicians and governments across the world are making art revolution a world wide phenomenon. In India, for a long time now, cartoonists have been attacking political power through their cartoons.


Image against America’s paid media

Edited image against Bush making rounds on the internet

Graffiti against paid media in the USA

Graffiti on Egyptian prison walls

The recent case of Aseem Trivedi didn’t come as a surprise. Neither did the reactions to it. He was charged for with sedation for having ‘tampered’ with our national emblem. In my opinion, an entirely baseless accusation. The main aim of a cartoon is be critical about and express discontent over an issue, which is exactly what Aseem Trivedi did. And to be very honest, it is kind of true. Our country is in a messed up state at the moment.

The cartoon drawn by Aseem Trivedi

But apart from political discontent, something that particularly grabbed my attention were the advertisements that commented on the ‘anti Hijabisation’ in France. Fashion brands like H&M used black paint to paint off the face of their models in a way so as to show that they were wearing Hijabs. This was a strong comment to show the discontent among people (non Muslims in this case, I am assuming) about the entire Hijab controversy that has been taking place in France for the past few years now. This was particularly striking because all this while there were individuals making these cartoons and images as a sign of protest, but in this case, advertising, what is considered to be a means to influence thousands, was being used to make a comment of an issue so communally sensitive.

H&M ad criticizing Hijabization, put up in a subway in Paris

Over all, I think art is a great means to show discontent because of its visual property. Also, with something like a cartoon or a graffiti, it is likely to stay in one’s mind for longer than an essay or a speech would. Also, something like an edited image or a cartoon adds the humor and sarcasm element to the message to be passed, making it more effective. In addition to that, as I mentioned earlier, art is available to one and all, giving almost anyone a platform to express discontent. Also, art doesn’t have a language, thus making it understandable for people across all cultures.

This kind of an accessibility and effectiveness is slowly making art the new language of protest.


Shruti Shenoy