Art as voice, criticism and resilience – how these artists use creativity to make a statement

In this photo essay from the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, we present more outstanding artworks and artist insights. Enjoy, share, visit!

Art as voice, criticism and resilience – how these artists use creativity to make a statement

Saturday April 08, 2023,

4 min Read

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 685 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

The fifth edition of the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale puts viewers in touch with the creative works of over 80 artists from around the world. Themed In Our Veins Flow Ink and Fire, the 15 large venues showcase works on nature, pandemic resilience, social movements, human rights, and justice.


“My approach to art over the past 30 years has been poetic and political. I am from Martinique, and more broadly from the southern hemisphere,” artist Jean-François Boclé explains, in a chat with YourStory.

“There is an urgent need to think and to take action,” he adds, citing the works of authors Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant and Frantz Fanon. Now based in Paris, some of his works displayed at the Biennale focus on the banana, a symbol with economic, cultural and political impact.

“In 2006, I discussed the link between bananas and racism in European football stadiums. Some fans regularly throw bananas at black footballers to tell them that they are close to the monkey. This takes up the theses of the racialist ideology that supported colonisation,” Jean-François affirms.

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“The photograph of the banana with the words Eat your liberty implies that we can eat our freedom, it is worth nothing to others,” Jean-François explains.

His other works address the use of chlordecone in the Caribbean, a pesticide that was banned in the US in 1975. “It was not until 1993 that France banned this pesticide,” he recalls.

See also our earlier six-part photo essay series on the fourth edition of the Biennale here, as well as coverage of the Aichi Triennale (Japan) and Bangkok Biennale (Thailand).


Jean-François Boclé

Artists showcased across the 15 venues of the Kochi Biennale include Asim Waqif (site-specific bamboo installation), Devi Seetharaman (symbolism of the mundu), Anna Samat (deity made from upcycled materials), and Homay Vyarawala (regarded as India’s first woman photojournalist).

Artists often need to bounce back from challenges, mistakes, and even failure. “The artistic journey is not always about success. Artists listen to where art fails. The artist voluntarily generates what can be called failure, but something decisive can also emerge from it,” Jean-François says.

“I look at what a lot would consider failure as my biggest opportunity to learn something. This understanding of course comes with age,” describes artist-designer Annah Chakola, who has created the first official shop for the Biennale.

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“I am a little more seasoned now and the small stuff does not really affect me as much as it once would. I mean, how boring would life be if we did not slip up here or there,” she jokes.

“We live in a culture that in some way expects people to project perfection, but that is impossible,” Annah says. She adds: “Also, nothing is so serious. Keep a sense of humor!”

 She says her creativity cannot be described as a linear process. “I am a nomad at heart, my mind is reeling with ideas constantly,” she says.


Annah Chakola

“I found a branch with a pod on the road the other day. It was so stunning that I put it in my bag and came back to the studio to see how I could go about gold plating it and create something with it,” Annah recalls.

“I create in reverse, I do trips, I find textures, I find fabrics that I love, and start building on that. Everything is seasonless,” she describes.

Both artists have words of advice for aspiring creators. “Get out there and immerse yourself into what you like so that you can start cultivating your own voice,” Annah advises.

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“For me art is not just a time of pleasure, you have to give everything, and on time. For my part, I had no choice – I had to be an artist to survive toxic social and political settings,” Jean-François recalls.

“So if I have any advice to give aspiring artists, it is that you have to know what you are getting into. But if there is a deep need, it should be listened to,” Jean-François signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?


(All photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the Biennale.)

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.

Edited by Akanksha Sarma