With gadgets governing all aspects of life, a new phenomenon is making an attempt to break that monopoly. Colouring books for both adults and children are being created by two artists to engage people in an activity that stimulates their creativity and teaches them to be alone with themself.
Two artists Paridhi Sharma and Arpana Pathak who are dentists by profession recently launched a colour book “The Overlooked Faces of Nepal” which delves into the world of LGBTQIA+ community.
In conversation with the artists, WOW discovers what makes these books special.
Being doctors, what channelised you towards art?
Paridhi: I’ve always been passionate about the arts. Since my childhood, I’ve participated in national and international competitions. I gained experience by just being a participant. But because I was destined to be a doctor, I could not continue with my passion for the arts. An opportunity came during the pandemic when the two of us came together and actually started sketching and doodling again. I showed the sketches to my husband, Krishna Dhungana who is the conceptualiser and envisioner of the book “The Overlooked Faces of Nepal,” and he encouraged us to publish it.
Arpana: The profession of a dentist is so hectic that we aren’t able to make time for any extra activities. I first started doodling and sketching after I graduated in 2018. As Paridhi mentioned, we met during the pandemic, we mostly used to draw mandalas and colour them, and at first, we decided that we should release a mandala-themed book. Paridhi then pitched our ideas to her husband, Krishna who supported our idea but said that if we were going to do it, we should do it for a cause to change society.
Paridhi & Arpana: Krishna has a close female friend who is a Nepali and who was in love with an Indian woman. But they could not get married as they were not accepted by their family and society. Their story touched our hearts. Krishna suggested we portray their story in our drawings and that is how the entire concept of LGBTQIA+ theme came into the book. Both Arpana and I went to meet different LGBTQIA+ community members and learnt their stories. The main purpose of this one-of-a-kind book is that we want to spread awareness about the LGBTQIA+ community. Not just to adults but also to children from a young age so that they can accept them as normal.
During the research, whose life story inspired you the most?
Paridhi: This book has different stories based on the lives of LGBTQIA+ members. Samaira Shrestha’s story is the first one that moved me. Hearing about her struggle and pain of growing up as a transwoman is heart-aching. Her story of transition, her childhood spent as a boy are deeply touching. Having said that, all the stories are special to us.
Three years of effort has gone into making this colour book; tell us a little about this period?
Arpana & Paridhi: It was challenging and rewarding as well. The first challenge was that we being straight and not being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community had no idea about the lives of the people from this community. We were trying to portray them but we were naïve and had no knowledge. It was really difficult to meet with the members of the community. We had nothing but an idea. Later a friend helped us connect with many members of the community. We spent six months searching, listening to stories and making drawings. There was learning and heartache in each story.
Why a colour book and not a storybook?
Paridhi: Because we both are artists. I can put my imagination into a piece of paper and turn it into art. Initially, we did think about keeping a few lines in the book but art is something that is to be illustrated by the viewer.
Arpana: For me, art is therapy. When we draw, we get intoxicated. If it was a storybook, it would be one-dimensional. Whatever book you read; you are fed about the idea by the writer. But art is something that you can interpreted at will. That’s why we decided to make it a colouring book. If this was a storybook, it wouldn’t be one of a kind as there are millions of storybooks.
What is the change you anticipate will come from this book?
Arpana: Listening to all the stories, we realised that the very first struggle begins in the adolescence phase. It is natural for everyone to feel different during adolescence but members of the LGBTQIA+, not only experience adolescent changes but also sexual orientation changes. There are cases of bullying and diminishing them by peers and society. There are various taboos where even parents and family of LGBTQIA+ members deny their orientation. This book may help ease the struggle.
Paridhi: When we started making this book, our goal was to have a copy of one of our books in every house so that children could access it and freely converse with their parents about their sexual orientation. If we could incorporate this book at the educational level and schools could use it in their art and craft classes, we could create awareness among the children that LGBTQIA+ orientation is absolutely normal.