We’re between milestones. In April this year, Varta completed 100 monthly issues, and tomorrow (August 1), the webzine itself will turn nine. On June 3, Varta as a volunteer group completed 10 years.

Among several other events to mark the occasion (full report coming up in August 2022), Varta Trust organized a gender and sexuality-themed art workshop on July 3, 2022. The workshop was for anyone and everyone interested in having fun with lines, shapes and colours, accomplished artist or not.

Group photo at the art workshop – front row (left to right) participants Soumyajit, Swati and Shreyatama; back row (left to right) participants Aniruddha, Ranjay, Pawan, Susanta and Souvik, and workshop moderator Rudra. Photo credit: Prabhati Mandal

A motley mix of eight people engaged with the arts, social work, journalism and photography turned up at Kalinath Angan on the evening of July 3 to participate in a workshop moderated by Kolkata-based painter, graphic designer and Varta volunteer Rudra Kishore Mandal.

Kalinath Angan is a new art gallery and workshop space recently opened in South Kolkata that is welcoming of queer people and their artistic initiatives.

Pawan Dhall, Founding Trustee, Varta Trust (also a workshop participant) shared a brief history and objectives of the organization and Varta webzine. He presented some of the pages from the Varta website and talked about the diverse issues around gender and sexuality that Varta Trust engages with and presents through the webzine.

Rudra explained that the participants could focus on one or more of the issues or themes and visualize them through artworks that could later be converted into Varta Trust’s profile material like bookmarks and posters. In addition, all the artworks would be displayed online in an exhibition of sorts (this article).

Aniruddha, a young professional, called for ‘smashing patriarchy’ and expanding the meaning of ‘family’ through his posters. Photographer Shreyatama depicted violence prevalent in the lives of queer people, but also that queer pride can be an instrument of resistance against the violence.

Artist Ranjay, studying fine arts in Kolkata and with roots in Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal, attempted to show the prevalence of both masculinity and femininity in an individual. Journalist Soumyajit presented their take on asexuality, while artist Souvik wanted to convey the idea that human sexuality is not a black and white affair.

Social worker Susanta made a pertinent statement: “My dreams matter”. In a second artwork, he tried to convey that ‘playing it safe’ is a crucial part of loving someone.

Both Pawan and Swati, a social worker and Varta Trust employee, went back to school, picking up crayons after decades together. Swati visualized a rainbow umbrella that would bring together people with different genders and sexualities. Pawan presented an abstract that environmental protection is of utmost importance – if our physical world becomes inhabitable, there is little point talking about rainbow pride or any kind of love.

After the participants had finished work on their pieces, they shared and discussed each other’s artworks. Rudra facilitated the session, assisting them in articulating their thoughts.

Even if experimental and a small affair, the workshop was enjoyable and actually therapeutic, at least for this author. The unanimous conclusion was that Varta Trust must organize more such events on a larger scale. So, do look out for announcements on more such events on our Facebook page and this website.

About the main illustration: Scenes from the art workshop in progress. All photo credits Rudra Kishore Mandal and Swati Das (unless otherwise stated). Photo collages courtesy Arkadeepra Purkayastha