Meeting Shilo Shiv Suleman & Nilofer Suleman

Sunday, July 08, 2012

When I knew I was going to Bangalore for the Soul Santhe, Shilo Shiv Suleman was the 1st person I informed. I knew if there was something I was looking forward to more than even the Soul Santhe it was meeting her. And not only would I get to meet her, but her mother too would be there, the legendary Nilofer Suleman at the altar of whose art I worship. For the few of those who don't know, Shilo is the incredibly young and accomplished artist whom the world recognised before she passed out of art School. But more than that she and her work captures your imagination. I have wanted to meet this young girl much before she went on to be a TED speaker. "She illustrated her first book for children at the age of 16 and has illustrated and published 8 others since. She has also been actively involved in setting up community art projects. Earlier this year, at only 22 years of age, she was chosen by TED and Levi's as an ambassador of the 'Shape of Things to Come' - one of three Indian women to be felicitated with this honour at the TED Global Conference 2011, Edinburgh. In 2010 she was selected for an INK fellowship for her work as a young innovator in her field and now continues her work with the community as their Featured Artist of the Year. She was also one of the youngest speakers at the WIRED UK and DLD conference in London and Munich." So in brief and maybe even flippantly- painter of books, buses, walls, art activist, gorgeous App designer, stage designer, TED speaker, (do click on the links which will take you to different aspects of her work) representative of a generation of women, of art, of culture. For she speaks of and derives from Arjuna and Apsara's when normal kids her generation would not think it cool to do so even if they knew enough to. It takes coming from and standing on strong ground and a sure sense of self to take a leap and fly.
As i walked into Shilo's & Nilofer's home, there was much to take in, the striking girl with frangipani in her hair and the home itself which gave me a distinct feeling of walking into her art. It all came together very beautifully. There were no two stories here. Only one. This was a home that had so much to give. There are some spaces that are very generous and this has everything to do with the people inhabiting it.

I loved the verandah outside their home. It was done in cool whites, had abundant greens and had these cowheads that Shilo had collected on her travels to across India.
This is Shilo at work painting the walls of Bangalore as part of the Wallflowers Project
And this is her room where she lives and works from. Her work is integral to where she comes from, who she is and what she truly feels. Perhaps that is why it has gone as far as it has.

We had a lot of fun shooting her. It was not an overly bright day and it made for some interesting lighting.
 It was uncanny feeling being in her space, it felt like being inside her live art, all the things that were drawn in her illustrations seemed present in this room. The frangipani, the lotuses, the gods, the twinky lights, were all here.

And now we enter Nilofer Suleman's studio, the place where the most astoundingly intricate and tongue-in-cheek humoured paintings are born.
It felt surreal to enter this space of an artist whom I admired so much, making casual conversation while I clicked and she worked, as if this were any other day.
 Entering the workspace of any artist is for me entering their private space, it is where they engage with their ideas, where their thoughts and being meet the muse and creation takes place. It is no less than a privilege of a lifetime if the artist allows you to witness the process of creation.

The Suleman's were very welcoming and generous hosts. Shilo had to leave to take a Delhi flight and I  saw the artist Nilofer at work and as mother. And perhaps the most important thing that I experienced was that their simplicity and humility were in direct proportion to their collective  and formidable talent.

For quick references: Shilo's TED talk, her blog & Khoya the interactive app she developed for the ipad.

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