A Painter of Women

October 13th, 2010 in Archive by 3 Comments

One of the first calls we received on the Hidden World of Girls message line was from Jean Parker, a listener who lives and works in India.  She shared with us the work of her friend Shakundala, who creates stirring paintings of women who work as prostitutes.

Listen to Jean’s original call:

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Here in India where I live and work, there are lots of women who might fit the description of eccentric, or living against the tide.  Actually, it doesn’t take that much for a woman to earn that distinction in a culture where roles and norms are strictly defined.

My friend Shakundala is a painter of women.  Most of the women she paints are prostitutes.

She has never had an art lesson yet her paintings are sold to benefit NGO’s working with prostitutes in India.  About this theme, she says she doesn’t know why she paints them, just that she can’t not paint them.  She says that suddenly, one day, the pictures just began coming out and that they had to go somewhere, so she began painting.

She is now quite elderly and deaf and lives in the old part of the city in a flat that leaks in the monsoon and is over one hundred years old.  It’s so old that when you visit Shakundala’s house you climb up a narrow staircase that is so steep you have to use a rope to pull yourself up.  The toilet is outside because at the time it was built the people who cleaned toilets were not allowed in the house.  It’s one of those buildings that will someday, just give up and fall down.

She describes her painting vividly enough for radio and speaks articulately about the situations  of the women she paints.  She also talks about how things have changed in India from the time of the British until now.


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These paintings are so beautiful! The one with the mother with child and the gold yellow is just striking. Thank you for sharing.



Also, is there a way to buy a painting of hers from outside of India? Thank you.



Shakundala’s paintings reminds me of my poetry, growing up in the urban streets of Newark, New Jersey, I saw things that disturbed me, but still managed to see the good in all people, even those whom were considered bad. My form of expression is to write poetry, relating to everything that surrounded me, especially the negative. Poetry is my release away from harsh reality, as painting is to Shakundala, they help us express ourselves without having to say a thing, as her paint brush is her voice, as a pen is mine. Artists usually present a hidden side of humanity through their work. An artist is a visionary that has a way of taking something negative and turning it into something beautiful. As artist Shakundala and I use our talents to express ideals that others are afraid to admit.

My contribution- Poem entitled: Memories

If this isn’t A memory what is it ?
Pictures, lines, and situations play Back .
looking for a stop button but I cant find it .
My thoughts Go deeper and the More I try to hide it .
Wait stop anxiety takind over my mind and
When I try to erase it all seems to just rewind its self

My fears are winning but I don’t Know How to Fight This.
Where Am I ?
What AM I Seeing ?
Are these Different Parts To a Dream ?
Or is it What My Heart Only sees?
Can’t keep these visions far enough away from Me .
This strange tendency overwhelms me with empty
Empty is the confusion of awakening into something that will never change
It’s safe to say I remember all these faces but they still change
While they metamorphose I’m still drenched in paranoia
I’m searching for an ending to all the history That embodies the reminders
These images are so haunting, Taunting on every value
What Will I subside too , since I cant find the factual
Yesterdays come to life in Brain, I can’t escape.
Why these Scenes? Someone Please Awake me From These Memories.
Memories of being hurt, misunderstood
Memoirs of tragedies and anger
Memories of happieness and joy
Then I realize where the memories come from and why
they wont go away
The memories are openly stuffed behind my conscience
They reaccure because of the fear of me being alone

The memories that stop me from moving on

Briana Hankerson


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