Officially illegal, the dowry system is still very common in India. Dowries can include goods, cash, property or other items that the bride’s family agrees to give to the groom and his relatives as a condition of the marriage.

Tragically, young women are sometimes murdered or driven to suicide by the harassment and torture by their in-laws in an effort to extort an increased dowry.

Pushpa Kumari (India b.1969) draws on the iconography of Mithila wall paintings to interpret traditional stories and historical events, and to reflect on issues such as dowry deaths that women in regional communities in India continue to face.

Dating from at least the 14th Century, Mithila painting and drawing was traditionally practised by women in the Mithila region of Bihar in northern India and Nepal.

Mithila works are characterised by intricate line drawing, geometric patterns and elaborate symbolism — fish represent fertility, peacocks are associated with love, and serpents with divinity. For centuries it was used to mark rituals and ceremonies, particularly weddings, and created mostly on the walls of people’s homes.

Kumari retains the distinctive styles and conventions of Mithila painting while addressing new subjects such as women’s rights in India.

Exhibited in 'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT8) | 21 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016


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