Posted on 18 Apr 2017

    This Woman Crowdsourced What People Feel About Their Bodies, And Turned It Into Beautiful Artwork

    The artwork covered experiences of using a menstrual cup, how gender normative behaviour begins at a young age, child sexual abuse, and fat-shaming, to name a few.

    Mumbai-based artist Indu Harikumar has been working on a crowdsourced art project that focuses on how people see their bodies. Harikumar told BuzzFeed that she got the idea after getting a lot of responses for her last project "100 Indian Tinder Tales".

    Harikumar created artwork in tandem with the stories she was sent. Some stories focussed on people finding flaws in their bodies, struggling with those and embracing them later in life.

    Indu Harikumar

    "I have been body shamed for most part of my 41 years. I was born a chubby little girl and have remained so. I went through the big bum, turnip thigh, fatty, whale, etc name calling. In fact in grade 2, my teacher said I had a “big bum”. I remember it so vividly, I stopped dancing or playing sports, afraid my big bum would look funny. I simply existed and my body was something I saw separated from my mind and heart. My mind and heart held me up. Not my Body.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of my body also. The first time I masturbated, I came. I had the power to pleasure myself! When a boyfriend looked at me undressing and said, 'Beautiful'. The look in his big brown eyes is something that I will never forget. The tenderness with which he said it makes me feel beautiful even today."

    This particular artwork focuses on a woman who was mocked for her small breasts and how the body-shaming affected her.

    Indu Harikumar

    "I have always had very low self esteem, was always made fun of, taken for granted and called names like idli boobs. In college, when everyone walked with their head held up high, I always looked down. I didn't want to be noticed.

    Mirrors were my enemies. I hated myself as my body didn't fit into the perfect figure category. It was nowhere close. I didn't want to see myself in pictures, when everybody was admiring the Kardashians for their assets, my peers kept saying, 'Boys like some booty to hold.' This traumatised me. I felt worthless and unlovable. I was so conscious about the way I looked that I avoided any social situations especially ones that involved the opposite sex."

    Some artwork showcases how a person can hate their physical form, within the confines of their own personal space.

    Indu Harikumar

    "I look into the mirror. Come on – give me something, anything – why shouldn't I claw this face out. The boy puts his arms around me and says 'You look cute,' with the same sincerity that endeared him to me all those months ago, enough for me to agree to marry him. He continues to gaze at me in the mirror with a smile on his face. I smile at his reflection in the mirror and then my eyes return to the monster – the tormentor I must carry everywhere, everyday."

    There are stories of people embracing their flaws by perceiving the same as their strengths.

    Indu Harikumar

    "Forget about the twenty different home remedies on the internet, the fifty different beauty products carefully curated by Cosmo depending on which brand paid them more.

    Don't mention resenting people who stayed hung up over these imperfections, even as your supply of fucks ran out.

    Focus on the marks you do like- the cluster of freckles outlining your right breast, waiting to peep out from a dress that allows for some classy side boob. Put 'get classy side boob dress' in your To Do list, under item #4 'get your shit together'.

    Focus on the dark 'beauty' marks that speckle your body. New ones show up in unexpected places but WebMD tells you not to worry. Speculate whether Zadie Smith would ever trawl through WebMD instead of working. Who're you kidding?

    You know what, just fuck it.

    Is your body still breathing, sugartits? Then fuck everything else. Take it for a swim in the sea, moisturise it with the oil you dabbed of your pizza and tell it you're glad it exists."

    And there are stories of people, revelling in their sexuality despite not feeling like the sexiest person in the room.

    Indu Harikumar

    "I had no idea how liberating sex can be until I met him. It is not like I had not had sex before. I have been quite adventurous since I was very young, but then I got married at the age of 22 and mellowed down. Since then, until three years ago, for about twelve years, the only person I slept with was my husband.

    Now, I must add that I am neither a good looking, nor particularly sexy. I hate most parts of my body, especially my big breasts and flat butt, and believe I am ugly and fat – which I am. But he, with his fingers, his mouth, and his tongue transformed me. In that time I felt like the sexiest woman on earth. The affair continued after I returned and was followed up with naked selfies, butt shots and sexting. Months, and years passed. We met a few times, and each time he fucked me with the same passion and hunger. He sucked my nipples and licked my ass. And did many things that may be too graphic to mention but you get the drift.

    This had an amazing effect on me. I started feeling beautiful and sexy, powerful and confident. I started refusing sex to the husband and masturbated and watched porn instead. I would send videos to G, but not let the husband touch me. In any case, his fucking me was only about himself and I on the other hand was getting greedier."

    Not only women, but also men told their stories of struggles with body image.

    Indu Harikumar

    "I was a small and skinny boy with a pale, unhealthy complexion, feminine eyes and long eyelashes. All bones. Always on the first bench or in the front row and first in all the lines. I was the one who fainted during exercises in the hot sun and the last in any running race.

    Nicknames came naturally. The boys thought that I had feminine features and often teased me. "Delicate Darling" later shortened to DD stuck.

    When we all grew up and some of the boys sprouted Adam's Apples and shot up. That's when the taunts changed. 'You will need a ladder to kiss your girlfriend. How will you satisfy your wife? What you have is just a 'tickler'. A little thing smaller than your thumb that feels like tiny prick, sometimes like a feather.'

    So a new nickname was born: Tickler."

    "The experiences of others were all unique, it evoked emotion, the imperfect stories made me feel at home with myself and provided me with ample inspiration to create art," Harikumar told BuzzFeed.

    Indu Harikumar

    Responses below the Harikumar's artwork have been edited for clarity and length. "Body Of Stories" is an ongoing project, you can check out all the entries so far here.

    Andre Borges is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Mumbai.

    Contact Andre Borges at andre.borges@buzzfeed.com.

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