India or Bust!

Hello all!  My name is Sascha Hughes-Caley and I’m a graduate student in Penn’s School of Design. I’m originally from the DC-area, but spent a large chunk of my adult life in California and British Columbia before relocating to Philadelphia last summer.

With a background in both the visual and performing arts, I am working towards my Master of Fine Arts (MFA, expected May 2015) degree in Interdisciplinary Art at Penn. With CASI’s assistance, I am traveling to India to continue my studies on the social landscape of contemporary rape culture and the normalization of violence against women.

Conducting research for my artwork over the past year, I have noticed a colossal global cultural shift evolving regarding issues of consent. As a female artist, with a tangential interest in feminism, I choose to examine not the case of the female victimization, but rather the issue of modern masculinity, expanding upon male sexuality the way femininity has long been scrutinized. For example, how is the next generation of men being encouraged or taught to identify themselves in a world with increasingly complex gender identities and perceptions of neutrality?

India is a fascinating example of a society catapulting forward without adequate and distributed change in perception or attitude to transform the prevailing assumption that women are less valuable than men. These traditional values are global and their roots are ancient. However, I believe that the time I am proposing to spend in India will be hugely informative to my artistic practice and subsequently serve to contribute to current discourse surrounding these themes. With an average age of just 29, India’s population now has the highest concentration of young people in the world. I believe that in order to contribute to a real change of popular perception, goals, and values related to consent, my work must aim toward steady, intentional accumulation of local, cultural shifts.

I leave tomorrow afternoon and can’t help but wonder if I’m about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. I fly into Mumbai and will be traveling around the South meeting with various individuals and organizations before landing in Bangalore for the second half of my eight weeks in India. While in Bangalore, I plan to work with the artists of Blank Noise – a really neat group of people using socially-engaged art to target sexual harassment.

So here we go. As a woman, I consider myself a stakeholder in this endeavor. As an artist, I find myself asking: “How do women begin to shape the narrative here? How do we give words to people who don’t have a voice? How do we give form to nonfiction?” And as Sascha, I also want to know: exactly how many mangoes CAN I eat in one sitting?

2 thoughts on “India or Bust!

  1. You should check out the work of Shilo Shiv Suleiman – a wonderful young female artist based in Bangalore. She spearheaded the fearless campaign last year post Nirbhaya rape. Unfortunately, she is currently in the US (but she’s there until September so you could connect with her when you are back Stateside).

    If you’d like an introduction, she’s a dear friend. I’m at heenatabla on twitter / fb and can do intros.

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About saschahughescaley

MFA Candidate, Interdisciplinary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 2015 (expected) 2014 CASI Travel Funds for Research Winner