How one artist is using public arts and augmented reality to talk about human trafficking

Posted on 18 March, 2015 by Team Wishberry

556c23bc1035aIMG_1165-1024x768 Millions of girls have disappeared off the face of the earth! MISSING head by Leena Kejriwal, is a project that’s determined on spreading awareness about human trafficking and prostitution. She successfully crowdfunded this project of hers in July 2015! Leena throws light on everything that she’s been doing with regards to the project, to how the crowdfunding experience was, to what her team is up to now. View her campaign page HERE!  

Congratulations on getting successfully crowdfunded! Tell us, how much has crowdfunding helped the project?

Leena: It was very interesting to explore the world of crowdfunding for the Missing public art project. With something like public art that hopes to create awareness about a subject like sex trafficking, awareness is the main factor to take into consideration. While Wishberry did not specifically help us increase our reach, it was a convenient platform to find our supporters and get them to financially back the project. The idea of having people around the world making a dream into a reality is great and we’re happy that someone like Wishberry has brought this to India. Crowdfunding allowed us to engage with many more people, leading it to be a public involved project as we wanted it to be from the beginning.  Beyond the fundraising, it’s been an incredible to see people from all over the world like the US, Australia, Netherlands, Spain and even Tanzania getting excited about the project and championing it in their networks.    

What made you think of a simple yet hard hitting concept like this? 

Leena: I have been involved with this issue for the past 12 years, been working with NGO's working on the issue of anti-trafficking and rehabilitation in red light districts like New Light, Hamari Muskaan and Apne Aap.  In the last few years, the issue of sex trafficking got larger in my works. With exhibitions in New Delhi, Iran, Germany, Amsterdam and Vienna that dealt with it. But I was still speaking an art language that was accessible only to a few in the art world. To create mass awareness, I realised I needed to distil the issue into a simple, engaging piece of public art that spoke to everyone. From this emerged my public art work which was launched to great reviews at the India Art Fair, in January 2014.  Everybody seems to believe that they are not a part of the problem. The idea of creating public art that not only sheds light on the issue but engages people to create the change was the way to go for me. 11855887_443782379128133_1329596498191286353_n

What challenges have you faced while working on this project?

Leena: Funding, collaborations, following up with each and every person was a task. We had a fairly small contained team working day in, day out, to get the best results. But we are happy that we have achieved what we went out to. It helped having a timeframe of two months because that kept us on our toes throughout.   

Missing’s stencil street art has been doing the rounds in major cities. How do people in general respond to it?

Leena: People are intrigued and curious. They have never seen such a stencil project in India and a lot of people have compared it to Banksy. We feel that it is spreading awareness as we hoped to. We have also faced instances where local goons called it 'black magic' and tried to create a problem for the NGOs we work with. It was interesting for us to see such a reaction and it gives us more strength to do this. Every time we went out making the stencils on the walls, crowds gathered and wanted to know what it was and why we were doing it. That's enough of an affirmation that it's the right way to go. We have seen tremendous interest from local artists and students in particular who want to take up the stencil project in their cities. It clearly struck a chord with a lot of people and there’s a fair amount of buzz on social media around the project with people taking photos of the stencils and sharing them. Our goal is to take the message viral.  11988282_448883025284735_5284768381148756125_n

What has been the most moving part of your journey creating awareness about trafficking so far?

Leena: Seeing the energy of the youth and people in general. It is moving to see the eagerness of people at supporting the cause in whatever ways possible - be it by helping with the stencils or funding it directly. Rotary coming in and agreeing to take it to 10 cities was the best thing that could happen to us. Now it's just the build-up to the actual installations and the game and that is equally exciting.  

What’s the next project on your plate?

Leena: Creating workshops and livelihood opportunities for the NGOs that I'm already working with. We are already providing cooking classes to women formerly from the sex industry as a means of a better livelihood. And, have two more books to be published in the near future. Also, a MISSING art exhibition soon.  Missing

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