This fashion project looks at limited spaces and opportunities available to women as a fallout of pandemic-led restrictions
In Sharmila Nair’s multidisciplinary installation, The Almirah, a woman says joyfully, “Tenth day of the lockdown and you are beside me…while another voices her anguish, “When was the last time we shared the sinking emptiness…”The fashion project looks at the limited spaces available to women as a fallout of pandemic-led restrictions. “After the lockdown was announced, I stood in front of my almirah looking at my stock of saris, which would go unsold and unseen for a long time, and I began to wonder about the privations of women across the world,” says the artist-cum-entrepreneur, who in 2019 came up with 18 Shades of Black, in which a black sari symbolised the restrictions faced by women in daily life.The almirah also forms a part of a woman’s trousseau in some communities of Kerala and Sharmila uses it as a metaphor to interpret different aspects of feminism. “For a bride, the almirah, which she gets as a gift, is perhaps the only personal space that connects her to her family. It is a link,” says Sharmila, who keeps her stock in an ancient, century-old cupboard that once belonged to her grandmother. Being stuck within the four walls of the home can affect women in many ways. Sharmila’s friend’s grandmother fell into depression and had to be hospitalised because her only outing to a place of worship had ceased. However, there are others who see the lockdown as a boon because they have been able to spend quality time with their families. Combining these ideas, Sharmila had a six-by-four foot almirah constructed in the basement of a building and, together with Bharatanatyam dancer Ramya Suvi and filmmaker-cinematographer Ratheesh Ravindran, created a telling narrative of women confined to a space. Dressed in saris from the almirah, Ramya performed within the tight, ‘unshelved’, closed space expressing diverse emotions ranging from the agony of entrapment to a sense of security.The installation combines art fashion, photography, performance and poetry. Ratheesh who wrote the poetry says, “We started the campaign with happiness, as many women felt happy with extended time on their hands. But it soon changed to fear, frustration, anger and sadness. We tried to capture all these nuances.” Lighting the cupboard space, he says, was a challenge because of the reflective glass. Sharmila also hopes to start a campaign titled Open the Almirah. “Through Open the Almirah we aim to inspire corporates to take this up as a CSR project where they can put across the idea of donating one valuable thing inside the almirah, for those in need. The valuables may be anything, ranging from clothing to basic essentials,” she saysCurrently The Almirah, which was released on social media on October 10, can be viewed on the FB page and Instagram handle of Red Lotus. There are plans to showcase it in gallery space post pandemic.