Saviya Lopes

« Let There be Warmth »
(Thou Shalt be Healed Quilt Series)

Countless stories and untold hours…
…with needle, thread and cloth.
There is a history to speak of.
There is a story to tell.
A kerchief for comfort.
A Quilt to Gift;
For they go beyond the simple act
of sharing work and the offering of warmth.
To offer daily refuge in them.
The desire to reassure and protect,
to embrace and secure.
A symbolic shelter against inevitable
trials and tribulations.
From personal to political.
Thou shalt be Healed.

(The Quilts of “Thou Shalt be Healed” look at perspectives of emotionality induced in the act of quilting; eventually becoming bodies for refuge, warmth, comfort and protection)

Image 1: “A Breast for a Breast”, Acrylic impression on paper, 2022
Image 2: “Wield it”, Body Cast; white cement, 2022

1) « A Breast for a Breast »

In this free world, still lives a colonizer named « Cancer »; who greets in silence through the mountains that shield us. It’s been days since he tried to conquer and colonize you, your body and your very own belongings. « Get Comfortable », you said… For you knew no one can invade your safe space, your brave space. As you move ahead and build yourself to fight back,  I offer you a breast for a breast; In solidarity, in strength and in hope. Mine are as tender as yours but much smaller to be defined But they are breasts after all.  Existent or non-existent, they will always fight is all I know. A Breast for a breast, let us put your cancer to rest.

2) “Imagining Michelle”

« Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray… As we go on to recite this prayer to the patron of my parish church, I can’t help but draw similarities to Michelle. Drawing parallels to the origin of her name and representation of St. Michael; I can’t reverse my vision of Michelle as a warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword and shield, as she fights her battle.  

April 20 to April 27

Tereza Lopes being fed by her sisters
Online gathering of The Crown Letter Project

“Woman to Women”

Tereza knew the importance of supporting other women. She knew what sisterhood meant in families and communities. She well understood that in order to receive respect then you must give it. She worked everyday to build her special bond with them. These women were her family away from family. There was friendship, love and most importantly reliability amongst them. She bonded with them for life. And she knew that it wasn’t by judging one another, but accepting each other’s differences and embracing them would help her become a better person.

As I grew up, I consider my life’s journey and the individuals that make up my personal sisterhood. I understand that my success is not just about me. It is about all these women attached to me succeeding and obtaining their goals. After the metoo wave, an aspect of sisterhood that I had not considered before really stood out for me. And this concept was that of brave spaces and safe spaces. Not that I hadn’t tried making one before. But now, these spaces allowed for open discussion about issues that affect our everyday lives and the expression of differing opinions. As for creating safe spaces, it provided one’s sense of belonging and comfortability where feelings and unity were valued more than differing opinions. And I do think this kind sisterhood in one’s professional life is critical. A group of women coming together for successful opportunities for a successful mentorship in a working environment where they encourage and support each other in endeavours towards personal dreams and goals. The solidarity based on shared conditions, experiences and concerns. 

Coming to my own personal experiences, the Crown letter project became one of those spaces, which often reminded me of Tereza’s bond with her women. The fact that women thrived better when they had a sense of belonging and community. Through these kinds of relationships, at its most basic level, an emotional connection is how we give and receive the emotional support we all need. And this very emotional support meant one was being seen, being heard and being understood. It is one of the most healing things I have experienced and something that I have got from the bond that I share with my Crown women. I have spent a few hours talking with these women in our online gatherings and I absolutely love how everyone gets to be themselves. To be free. To have no insecurities. It was scary at first, I know it was me, but being together this way is so freeing. It’s an array of feelings, emotions and connections. It can’t be described in one certain way or by one word. There’s nothing quiet like it.

Sisterhood as we call it, does carry a different meaning to every person, but in general as a concept and as a practice, it has been crucial in the history of women’s rights and feminism. And I couldn’t agree more.

March 08 to March 16

From Left to Right: Magdelena Dabre, Philomeena Dmello, Marcella Pinto, Tereza Lopes, Joanna Colaco

The Matriarchs – “The Tereza I know” (Photographic Series), 2020
The Matriarchs
They followed Matrifocality.
They were fierce.
They were outrageous, audacious and courageous.
They were committed;
Committed to the survival and wholeness 
of entire people/community. 
They loved music. 
They loved to dance. 
They loved their spirits. 
They loved food. 
They loved their struggle. 
They loved themselves 
and other women. 
They loved Love.
They were the Womanists.
All this while, they carried a part of me inside their womb. 
A part that keeps growing inside me now.
We were always connected
We will always be womanists.

December 01 to December 08

“Birthday Suit” Tulle Fabric 2016

For long, as long as art has been around, people have been fascinated with the topic of nudity or the nude within art. Over the time, from the stone ages up to the modern times, nudity has always been present in some shape or form. But it is in how we perceive, and view the nudity that has changed the most. The Nude has gone from being a symbol of female power and fertility, something that we celebrated, to now something shameful, erotic and perverse in the same way. However, the most important thing here is the distinction between what is counted as a ‘nude’ to what is counted as ‘naked’. The significant distinction between the naked and the nude is where one is considerate to be a shameful subject and the other one is considered to be an art form.

When physical beauty is idealized/ featured in popular media through out contemporary times of histories, it in fact reduces human bodies to sexualised objects. Thus in turn creating messages across mass media that one’s body is inadequate apart from the sex appeal; connecting the concepts of beauty, body and sex. The work tries to find relationship between individual identity and its relationship to beauty; at the same time, trying to also mock the whole idea of categorizing the human body forms into objects.

“Birthday Suit” consists of garments stitched out of sheer fabric. The sheer fabric garments are a critique to the sexualization of gendered clothes, where eventually the stitched clothes do not confine themselves to a particular form or social construct. In turn accepting the bodies we have beneath them.

At times, the outside critique of our bodies happen often enough, that most people have had a moment when they realize that their body is a public property. Certain body parts are not inherently sexual, as sex is not their primary function. But somewhat ironically, hiding these body parts away gives them an air of mystery, ultimately increasing the sexual tension surrounding them. In terms of clothing, it serves as an important socializing influence and acts as a symbol of social status and identity. It plays a crucial role in the identity politics of urban societies. Clothing serves as informative as well as non-informative at times. In a way, it reflects the self- the identity, the material practice we engage with in daily life. Dressing can be an act of making the self, available to others, not only for appreciation and admiration, but also for objectification. One’s wardrobe is known to be an extension of the diverse aspects of one’s beliefs and constructs social identity. In this whole process of identity creation, there is an attempt to strike a balance between the dynamic interplay of conformity and individuality, which is identified as a core aspect of fashion. People at times are also known to self objectify themselves when they choose clothes for fashion over comfort.

The medium of sheer fabrics is one of the most sensual fabrics available in the fashion industry. It owes its popularity to the mystical aura that it generates when worn. Nude or “skin tone” was, and still is popular when making garments; when the wearer appears naked but is actually wearing a skin tone sheer garment. Also known as the illusion, it gives the impression of exposed flesh while the wearer is completely covered. The sheer fabric-clothing acts as an acceptance of the nude body we carry in the city. In turn, the wearer, being in between the state of body acceptance in the society. The question of the body being something else rather than just being right or wrong. The work attempts to bring us to terms with our own conscience.

November 24 to December 01

WANTS AND NEEDS, Screen print on Vintage paper, 2019

Arlie Hochschild’s term of emotional labour is a Marxist feminist analysis which departs from the psychological accounts of emotion which have predominated, to place it in a sociological framework concerned with the influence of social structures on individual identities, roles and actions under patriarchal capitalism (Ref- Paul Brook)​

Apart from the emotional labour’s general understanding, we also have to consider the heavier meaning it has. Something that’s very specific to the marginalised.​ ​It​ i​s more tricky since the wearying work of having to pretend you are not as bothered by micro aggressions in the workspace as you really are; whether those aggressions are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, castiest, misogynistic, etc..any situation where you feel like you have been stereotyped, or your identity has been attacked in some way or the other and you have to pretend that its completely fine. There is then the extra ‘emotion work’ one has to carry on their shoulders, when their gender identity intersects with their other social identities of caste, class, sexuality, race, religion etc. It adds layers to the offensive and uncomfortable situations one has to « politely and rationally’ navigate in their daily lives, both in and out of the workspaces. It’s like having to constantly explain your identity or illuminate your colleagues why a certain remark was offensive. And then bear the additional responsibility of managing your emotions not just for yourself, but for the sake of the community you come from. Because minorities and the marginalised above and all are considered as representatives of their communities. Most often, the emotion work minority and marginalised women have to do is suppressing the expression of anger, which is not only considered an unmannerly emotion, but which can have both possibly dangerous to fatal consequences. For a lot of these women, their emotional management is a form of survival in this patriarchal society, in which they are left with little to absolutely no choice at all. All those times that women have been leered at, glared at or been exploited; but all they could do was look the other way. That’s how the ‘emotion work’ women have to tackle in their daily lives, and it is not just exhausting, but also very traumatising. It is subject to order and control by dominant groups who seek profit from it.

​Labour has a layer of daily responsibility that is hardly discussed. Emotional labour is not just an institutional demand; it is also a societal expectation. It is also one of those, which falls disproportionately on women. And maybe confronting it could be a step ahead. To recognise that this work has value. We can always put up a discourse about the polarities between public and private realms of emotional labour. At times, it may seem like this discourse has been monopolised by the white middle class from the Global north, which leaves out important layers of social reality from the understanding of this concept, including culture, caste, class, race, etc. It is necessary to bring diversity to this discourse. The Emotional labour invoice is not to ask for remuneration of the emotional labour. It is rather a step to recognise and acknowledge that constantly managing one’s emotion and making spaces for others needs and wants is exhausting, invisible, heavily gendered and the fact that it is also « actual work ». The question of putting hard earned expertise into something that puts capitalism to work. Wants and Needs is based on the wants of the dominant groups and the needs of the marginalised.

-Text by Saviya Lopes-

On the call of Central Trade Union Organizations and Federations
Nationwide General Strike 26th November 2020

Important: The unplanned ‘lock-down’ enforced by the Modi government without providing for even basic needs and employment guarantee to Crores of people has caused immense hardships to the workers across all sectors. From daily wagers, industrial workers, small vendors etc to people working in IT/ITeS sector – all have suffered because of the complete apathy of the Modi government. Many workers were forced to go on a ‘leave without pay; some had to take hefty pay-cuts and many were simply retrenched without compensation or notice. The work above is to support the All India Strike of 26th November, which will be a clarion call to unite and organize for the workers of sectors hitherto untouched by the trade union movement!! Standing up for one owns rights and not letting the big MNCs and the government take away our rights this time!! This is towards the All India Strike of 26th November, where we double our efforts to fight the anti-worker Modi government!! To show our strength through unity and adamantine resolve!! To make The 26th November Strike A Historic Success!!

Saviya Lopes (1994) lives and works in Vasai, Bombay, India.
She graduated from Rachna Sansad Academy of Fine Art, and is a participating artist at Clark House Initiative where she is currently the Director. Lopes’ graduating research thesis took the form of a confession in which she confronted various identities. Her works articulate a hypocrisy that we are well versed with but refuse to shed often using the cudgels of culture. She works in the context of feminism and its interventions of visual vocabulary in conceptual practice and thoroughly puts through an idea for the political. She often works with the histories of the place in which she lives as well as with her own family archives; drawing upon activities such as tapestry weaving by her grandmother as manifestations of dissent. Through the conceptualization of quilt drawings and the actual materialisation of cloths, she questions the reduction of femininity to motherhood in our patriarchal society. She investigates the symbols of motherhood analyzing the forms of the primitives Venuses and the female sex as the birth-giving fruit. She uses her drawings to reject religious misogyny, but also to humour the norms of patriarchy.
Recent solo and group exhibitions include a pop-up show at Clark House Initiative, Bombay; Dakar Biennale; Historica – Republican Aesthetics at IMMA, Ireland; and Stories My country told me, Asia Culture Centre, Gwangju Biennale, all 2016; Gondwana Series – An intervention at Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017; Working Practices, The Showroom, London, 2018. She has been twice invited to South Korea for Gwangju Biennale as a fellow to participate and has participated as a visiting speaker at the Asia Art Space, Network Asia, Korea.