Home Health Bringing brushstrokes into the battle against breast cancer

Bringing brushstrokes into the battle against breast cancer


Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self examination series

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self examination series
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Art has therapeutic powers. An initiative by Apollo Cancer Centre saw artists, cancer survivors and experts from the medical fraternity come together to spread awareness on breast cancer. Using the Kerala mural art form, the eight steps of breast self-examination have been depicted on separate canvases.

In September this year, Apollo Cancer Centre reached out to MeMeraki, a Delhi-based collective of traditional artists with the theme of self-breast examination. Yosha Gupta, founder of MeMeraki, got artists to work on the theme. Apollo approved of the samples submitted by Adarsh A, a mural artist from Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala.

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self examination series

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self examination series
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

“Apollo reached out to us as they wanted to use traditional art to create awareness about breast cancer because typical imagery for self-breast examination is either textbook imagery or graphic design, which doesn’t evoke an emotional reaction. Kerala mural art is a graceful art form where the body is shown fluidly and the colours are vibrant. It was a good fit since we need to be able to show movement while portraying the techniques of self-breast examination,” says Yosha.

“We presented a set of 50 sketches to Apollo. Once they decided on us, there was a bit of back and forth to get the depiction of the procedure accurately,” says Adarsh, who has been a part of the MeMeraki collective from its inception.

Although Adarsh was the master artist who ideated the imagery to be used in the canvases, a team of mural artists followed his template and design to recreate those eight canvases in Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Delhi as well. “We documented the process from the beginning and sent it to all the participating traditional artists to avoid errors in depicting the technique,” he adds.

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self-examination series

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self-examination series
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Adarsh says it took him about a month to create the basic sketches and another to finalise them using acrylic colour on canvas. The other mural artists who recreated these eight steps in other cities were Jiju Lal, Ramesh, Saji K T, Shyju T K, Athira K B and Vishnusreedhar K A.

The paintings have also been incorporated into a coffee table book titled ‘Chitra-sutra’, where each step has been presented in verse and prose. The figure in each of these steps has been named after a cancer survivor in a bid to generate interest and create awareness. A soft copy of the book will soon be available online.

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self-examination series

Paintings from ArtCan’s breast self-examination series
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

MeMeraki: Giving traditional art a tech edge

MeMeraki was founded in 2019 as a culture tech platform to boost the artisanal and handicraft industry. However, it was during the pandemic that they branched into doing online live art workshops with traditional artists across India. “Our patrons can participate in live art workshops and, if needed, we can provide them with a kit containing the required raw material,” Yosha says.

Following the lockdown, live recordings of an artist’s process have became part of MeMeraki’s module. “We do a deep dive of the art form with the artist and record it. Since they are in Indian regional languages, we have them translated or add subtitles, so anybody can learn from the master artists directly.”

Currently, over 250 artists are a part of the MeMeraki collective.



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