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When Art Transcends Pain

One of my docu shoots in Punjab
Workshop in schools on CSA
My interview for Cock-tale, a film on the genesis of a rapist.

When Art transcends Pain

-Insia Dariwala, The Hands of Hope Foundation.

There are only two kinds of stories in this world- yours, and mine. Today, I choose to tell mine, because it may compel others to share theirs in return.

I was all of 10, when sexual abuse, forced me to shut out the world around me, and create a new one. This world gave me a chance to live with people I knew couldn't hurt me. People like Tarzan, Phantom, Archie's and Tinkle. Each day, I saw myself as one of the heroes in these stories. This girl was invincible, strong, powerful, and even saved others from injustice. Through this fantasy world, I could navigate the ugliness of reality around me.

As I slowly delved deeper into my imaginary world, I found solace in words, and fictional characters. My imagination became my prep ground for what was to come, and the words and visuals became my best friend. It was no surprise then; I eventually became a Writer/Director, who told stories through her films.

Early on in my career, I used to tell other people's stories, but one fine day, I was confronted by this character hiding inside of me-a little girl, waiting to be comforted, and waiting to be released. She wanted me to rewrite her story. That is how my award winning, debut film 'The Candy Man 'was born.

This film acted as a catharsis for the abused child within me. It was my way of exorcising my demons, and doing what I could not do as a child- making evil pay, and celebrating 'Shakti' in a woman.

Seeing the film's impact on its viewers, I realised I possessed a gift, which could be used to change and better the society we live in. I also realised, the visual medium's power to connect complete strangers, touch their heart, and force them to engage in a dialogue with each other. This enlightenment led to more social films, and two years ago, birthed an organisation called ' The Hands of Hope Foundation'.

The organisation addresses sexual violence on women and children through its flagship program 'Recognise. Prevent . Protect' , which is conducted in schools, slums, and shelters, using custom-designed visual software to educate children, and adults.

Another milestone that strengthened my belief in the visual medium was an art installation we put up last year, at the prestigious Kala Ghoda Art festival in Mumbai, on the theme of child sexual abuse. The installation called 'Betrayed', and visited by around a 1, 00,000 people triggered, what would have otherwise been a difficult dialogue. Moreover, it also gave me an opportunity to create awareness with many children and adults, on the issue of sexual abuse.

Sahiyo, another organisation I co-founded, also uses the medium of stories, and films to break the silence around Female Genital Cutting (FGM/C) in India.

Today, I know that no matter how dark the world gets around me, I will always be able to illuminate it with my imagination, with my stories, and with my films. Hope will always triumph pain.

Gender-based Violence
South and Central Asia
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