Illustrator :

Aravani Art Project

10th March, 2022

Exploring spaces and creating public projects in Bangalore, through the eyes of the people from the Transgender community.

This project was supported by BANGALORE 560 - A grant from India Foundation for the Arts.


Navvu idhivi means- 'We exist’. How good it is to know about someone, who is amongst us and you’d never realize that they are amongst us and almost invisible nor heard about their stories and are always so secretive almost living in a parallel universe.

Here is our first opportunity with IFA to have the Bangalore 560 grant for this year 2019 where one could listen, see, walk, breath and share beautiful moments and journeys together with us Transgender people from Bengaluru. The city is seen through the eyes of people from the trans community in our vicinity. I was in disbelief.

It all started a few months ago when Poornima called us for this very important meeting at Lalbagh in the city. We usually like to meet in different places , just because we can.

Poornima started the conversation by asking us “how many of us are from this city and how close is the city to you?” Most of us are born here and few have been here in this city for more than 15 years and have had some kind of close connections and experiences in this city.

We asked her why and she replied saying that there are a series of projects coming up that are very different from what we are doing now and that it will be more of storytelling, listening, singing, acting and / or the other art forms, apart from the murals we do. These projects would be assigned to us and conducted by us. I was in shock. I had forgotten that we hold so many stories and hidden artists, without an opportunity to express or channelise in the right way.

We all were excited and shared our views and experiences about the city we live in. After that we collected a few interviews/ recordings of others living in this city from the community and shared their moments and experiences with each other.

It was so interesting for us to know different versions of the city, how the city was before, the history on where all they would take shelter to save themselves, for love, for sex and to protect their identities, where would spend most of the time in loneliness and/or in togetherness, their eating, drinking joints and how safe < unsafe was the city towards us.

It was amazing to hear various versions of Bangalore based stories and of course to get to understand and know each one’s perspectives and stories which was so amazing.

This documentation is a glimpse of the 9 events that took place in Bangalore, exploring spaces and stories that belong to the people from the Transgender community. Each project was only possible because of the generosity and the knowledge that was shared by Shanthi, Chandri, Purushi, Jyothi, Priyanka, Mayil, Booby, Kumari, Shwetha, Prarthana, Veena, Sandhiya, Thara, (Late) Parichaya, Aishwarya, Nakshatra, Sana Suman, Harish, and so many more from the community.

We are also deeply thankful to all the various artists we got to work and collborate with to create a unique experience and story-tell in the right way. Thank you Shilpa from the Urban Folk Project, Avril Stormy Unger, Pallavi Sridhar, Pavana, Supriya SV, Ankur Jadhav, Aditya Datar, Divya Runwal, Chirag, Dramanon team : Sharanya Ramprakash, Sridhar Prasad, Swetanshu Bora, Aswin Varrier & Surabhi Herur, Bhagyamma, Jayaram, Kanike Studio: Indu Anthony, Aparna Nori, Vivek Muthuramalingam & Krishanu, Finale team: Nuhar, Hamsa, Vaishali, Vibha, Megha, Riya, Keerthana, Pavithra, Nisha, Neha and Pavithra students from Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat.

The experience of each event as part of the Bangalore 560 grant helped us all learn and unlearn the importance of the spaces that exist within or society, the politics that lies within the gaze between night and day, the idea of a safe city when it comes to the trans people, migration, celebration, faith, devotion, love, hate, violence, discrimination, friendship and sisterhood.



Our objective was to analyse a team of Transgender people during a social gathering and to enable them to understand that their stories and gatherings matter in a social sustainable way. To observe what it takes for the people from the community to use a public space and participate in gatherings that involve people from a marginalized community. How is this viewed?

Did Bangalore have a more inclusive and socially sustainable past? A past that was very accommodative of various communities or backgrounds; if yes then how did it drastically change to making the people from certain communities an outcast?

Looking at Bangalore through the lens of the people from the Transgender community. Yellamma is a celebrated goddess within the Transgender Community.

Purushi, who belongs to Bangalore and has grown up in Basaveshwara Nagar, wants to portray her version of the city as a space where everyone comes together in the name of faith, love and celebration. A glimpse into the religious path that is often not very visible to the rest of the society. A celebration of faith that re-instills our connect with ethnicity, gender, sexuality and spirituality in the perspective of the Transgender community.

Preethi Ellidhey? - Where is the love?


Our objective was To create a curated walk with short performances along the way, as we re-tell you untold stories from the beautiful Cubbon Park and its history as a space to come seek love for all sorts of people. Exploring safe havens in the city for trans people, places where they can be themselves, spaces where they feel like the city belongs to them.

Cubbon Park has been a space where people from the LGBTQIA communities have often come for recreational and sex-work purposes. Apart from the Cubbon park “we know of” , it has another side to it which we ought to explore.

A walk through Cubbon park and exploring spaces that are community friendly, through an engaging/ interactive and performative walk.

Cubbon park has been a historical place in Bangalore. A lot of the common people are unaware about the beautiful stories and versions that were displayed by the people from the Transgender community. It is almost so secretive , yet in a public space. The dynamic of these contradictions were really mind boggling and almost never heard of. It was beautiful to connect to everyone keeping LOVE, HEARTBREAK and it’s FAILURES as such a heart to heart topic.


Photo walk - A photo walk - exploring a festival with our friends from the Transgender community ♥

A lot of celebrations, especially that involves the people from the Transgender community is always documented and are ‘subjects of interest’ , it has been rather rare for the people to create their own narrative and to be able to document their celebrations from their point of view. However an exchange between people from the Transgender community and other people was a something we wanted as a collective.

Bannerghatta Jatre was something we stumbled upon since a lot of the Trans-women who belong to Bangalore kept mentioning it to us. We realized that it holds a very important space in their lives. The sheer joy in inviting us and then introducing us to the spaces and beliefs that have been practiced since decades was commendable and filled with warmth.

The objective of choosing a fest such as Bannerghatta Jatre was that several Trans-women who we spoke to were extremely excited and their eyes would sparkle when they speak about the memories and just being present at the Bannerghatta jatre.

The other important factor was that it touched base on the lines of migration. Several transgender people have travelled and migrated from Tamil Nadu , Andra Pradesh and other smaller districts between the Karnataka border which falls near Bannerghatta as an area. The congregation of all the various languages and sects come- together here and is celebrated in grandeur by the people from the Transgender community.

The main objective was to also enable the people from our team to document the festival through their lens.

Manasina Maathu - Talking our hearts out

Manasina Maathu

What does Bangalore mean to the members from the Trans-community? What is the history of Trans-culture in Bangalore? What are the beautiful connections of spaces and life of the Transgender community? Did Bangalore have a more inclusive and socially sustainable past? A past that was very accommodative of various communities or backgrounds; if yes then how did it drastically change to making the people from certain communities an outcast?

‘Majestic’ is an area in Bangalore and has been an important area in terms of Sex - work, cruising and recreation spots for a lot of people from the Transgender Community. Speaking of recreation, local bars have been a very important space of congregation and historically to be able to meet each other from the same community, instrumental at times of grief, happiness and have acted as "safe spaces" somewhat, not just for people from the community, but for all of us!

We were thrilled to excited to be painting an old bar that has been historic for the people from the Transgender Community, while we invited people to listen to stories of various aged Transgender people , in the format of an audio walk.

Karagadha Kathegalu

Stories about a form, space and people


Stories about the connection between a lovely form of dance, expression, faith , intense energies and the Transgender community.

The gender transformation is a fascinating part of the event apart from the fact that it is happening at a cemetery.

Our next event as part of the Bangalore 560 grant from India Foundation for the Arts took us to an unexpected public place.

Is a cemetery a public place or a private space?

What are our prejudices and myths against a place like this? How is the cemetery related to the Transgender community?

We are extremely fascinated and thrilled by the synergy of fear and faith, good and bad, safe and unsafe.

While we unveiled the answers to those questions that day...the beats of the drums still ring in our heads. Karaga is a dance form that is performed by various kinds of people, especially famous within the people from the Transgender communitiy. Our collaborators Jayaram and Bhagyamma had explained to us about how the dance form is dedicated to Draupadi. They insisted that the performance is more meaningful and powerful in a graveyard.

NAVA - The play


‘Nava’ explores the stories of 9 urban transwomen through the 9 rasas. The performers take the stage to explore the Navarasa boxes and through their performance, unbox, expand, challenge and defy fixed notions of what constitutes the Navarasa and who can be its Nayakis. ‘Nava’ interrogates what 'performance' means as the actors have never performed on a theater stage before, but understand and use performance in diverse ways in their lives. Therefore, when they perform on stage, it has to be on their terms - the stage must expand to accommodate their understanding of performance and not the other way around. Through their telling, they provoke, question, inform, challenge and expand dominant ideas of Haasya, Adhbuta, Bibhatsa, Krodha, Shrungara, Bhaya, Veera, Karuna and Shanta. They bring their bodies, stories and voices which have been deliberately silenced and willfully ignored, to reclaim their rightful place – the centrestage. _ What are the beautiful connections of spaces and life of the Transgender community? _ Did it have a more inclusive and socially sustainable past? A past that was very accommodative of various communities or backgrounds; if yes then how did it drastically change to making the people from certain communities an outcast? To introduce the audience to the emotional sides of the Trans -women based in Bangalore.

It was a mere co- incidence that we happened to start with 9 people from the Transgender community, only to brainstorm about a possible performance that might happen in a public space.

Essentially, we wanted to portray some personal stories about the Transwomen, in a way that the people would be able to view, without prejudices. The objective was also to be able to use performance as a form of expression and having to understand that as a process. The objective also became about enabling trans stories, trans bodies and voices to occupy centerstage, creating new ways to advocate for trans rights and open up public spaces for transgender people through the staging of trans-feminist theatre production ‘Nava’.


A panel discussion by the Kempambudhi Lake


The Trans community gathered at the historical Kempabudhi Kere in Bengaluru city, and participated in the panel discussion by the name, 'Naavu Idhivi' to share and relive some stories and memories. The event curated by hosted by RJ Priyanka - who is India’s first Transgender Radio Jockey.

The curation involved trans women from different backgrounds, some being employees in the mainstream sectors, sharing their stories and feelings, and their relationships with the Bengaluru city. "All means of social media were used to spread the word about the event, and we are about 25 of us gathered here", added one of the attendees.

As the conversation unfolded, one of the trans women said, Kempabudhi kere and the community have a great relationship since years , as it has been a relaxing spot for their community and for the people of the city.

As they walked around, Priyanka narrated about her personal experiences about the Kempabudhi Kere where it wasn't as developed as of today, appropriate drainage systems didn't exist. It was a spot where she would hang out as a young boy, a space where she could escape from the feelings she used to battle with. and a space for abandoned children but the lake experienced development through the years. The name comes from a hall that has been around the times of Kempe Gowda, Kempebudhi Kere named after his daughter-in-law, Kempamma.

A deer park was nearby, where they played around as kids, and a lot of cattle were brought around for grazing, cow dung cakes were dried on the same stones that are now used as seating by the people. The roads around the lake lead to the hall and the Bandi Kalamma Temple, which now is a very famous temple with frequent visitors.

Purushi added,"People from the community introduced me to this place and made me feel like one of them." It has been a space for meetings for the community as they shared each other's daily life stories. It was quite a dangerous space with some unpleasant stories attached to the lake, however with years, the lake now is home to morning walks and evening sharing sessions ,abundant nature and a serving nest to many birds. A stone pillar that never submerged and stood strong during heavy floods had some mystery stories as well, added Priyanka. Four fort-looking halls that were placed to embark the boundaries of the city, one of them situated in Kempabudi Kere. One of the important memories shared was how as kids they came here to pluck some Eechilu (palms) to bring back home, they would store it and use them.

"Kempabudi Kere also served as a reservoir earlier and a helpful source for farming, which now is a transformed space for citizens to take walks and exercise", added Chetan from the community. It now has become a space for all, from kids to families getting to spend their weekends not very far from the city, with an adjacent metro station and providing a safe space.

The discussion opened an opportunity for the women of the community to share about their childhood stories and experiences as they witnessed the history of the space.

As Priyanka further questioned about their experience as they walked around, Shweta added how the lake is an important example to save the heritage and history of the state, and hope the government continues to preserve these spaces.

Further taking the talk forward, stories of the community about their families, partners, jobs were shared, and through the talks, explored the possibilities and celebrated those who are in professions that are making them more inclusive with the society we live in.


Celebrating beautiful people and their powerful friendships through a photographic exploration and cyanotype printing.

Kathegala Kanive

There has always been a deep sense of “allyship” long before this word was even introduced to us. The lives of people from the community have only attracted all the sadness, grief and drama. Would you know who their best friend is? Do you know who consoles them when they cry? Do you know where they live and how are their neighbors? Our objective was to be able to capture these beautiful everyday-ness through the medium of photography.

“Our lifestyles are hard for people to comprehend, so the best way to understand us, is to accept us”. says Chandri.

When people in our own villages and towns don’t accept and talk to us normally. People encourage us in our area we have moved to. “Come on, we all will struggle together”, “come eat in my house” are common phrases they love to hear.

We are open about our profession and somehow we have been accepted by the women around, they empathize. They understand our struggles, they don’t care whether we do sex work/ begging or go dancing”.

Although people from various marginalized communities experience severe mental health turmoils, there is a sense of immense bravery and strength that we all can derive inspiration from.

Being together as friends, comrades, sisters and so much more. The various relationships that are shared by people from the Transgender community is something that is truly inspirational and revolutionary.

The very fact that it exists in its rawest form, to create a support system based on friendship ,trust and love, along with its flaws, often gone unnoticed. The sheer sense of belonging and support system that each one of them experience is enriching. It’s in these beautiful connections and interdependency, life thrives.

Each person part of this project has a friend(s), spaces or events which personifies or probably is the reason why this city ‘ Bangalore’ feels like home.

Since the relationship shared is geographically situated and had a strong sense of ‘Bangalore’ as a space, a person and a relationship to some, the project also allowed us to conduct interviews that spoke of Bangalore as a homecoming to so many people from the community.

Through the “Kathegala Kanive Photo Project” , we aim to explore friendships that are shared by Bangalore based Transgender women - collecting stories of people, spaces and objects that have given more meaning to their life in Bangalore. A friend who is family, that one house which sheltered them on difficult nights, that one lover they chose to confide into and create a strong sense of various beautiful relationships and more as a sense of belonging.

Although we always had photography as a medium to introduce to the people from the community to document this particular segment, our collaborators from Kanike Studio also suggested that we try a new medium that would be more abstract and allow a sense of minimalist thinking to this topic.

We experimented and learnt Cyanotype printing, which helped channelise the thoughts and helped with the direction of the thought process with this particular project.


An exhibit and culmination of all the events and as part of the Bangalore 560 grant from India Foundation for the Arts.


Chow Chow bath was a culmination of all the events that we created, executed and designed for the Bangalore 560 grant supported by the India Foundation for the Arts.

We were very grateful to have it all exhibited and showcased at Bangalore International Center, Bangalore on March 27th.

The showcasing consisted of all the 8 events in one finale. While we had to curate the experiences and having elements of it like how we had executed in the public spaces was a great challenge. We curated photographs, write ups, posters, decor, flowers and videos to create the visual experiences. Then there was the “Tamte - drums”, audio recordings and smaller dances and performances to make a complete experience.

The entire exhibit was open for the entire day. Although we have some curated walks/ performances during pacific times in the day. The curated walk began at the entrance of BIC with the tamte loudly playing so that everyone would gather… the tamte’s beats are irresistible , so a few people always end up dancing. This is how the show began.

Shanthi Muniswamy addressed the crowd and welcomed everyone and explained about the project and all its glory. It was such a moment of utmost pride to see the trans-women own a show and be proud of their culture and practices.

The events that were showcased were :

  1. Aarambha - a simple display of the Goddess yellamma and the decoration of the Kalasha and flower arrangement. The people from the community gathered around to sing a few songs that were sung in the actual event.
  2. Then we walked to the place where we had placed MP3 players that held recordings of stories of people from the community who have found solace and safety in a 50 year old bar in Majestic called Balaji Bar.
  3. The walk slowly leads them to the ever so awesome Karaga performance in a small set up with a large painting of the Smashana Kali painted by the beloved volunteers. Although the experience of it in the graveyard gave us all goosebumps.
  4. The walk then proceeded to a little outdoor space where we set up the feels of Kempabudhi Kere and the panel discussion was playing in a loop for people to sit and listen to.
  5. After which people were led towards the beautiful Bannerghatta Jatre set up. The photographs clicked by the people from the community were on display digitally on a television. The specific dance was performed at the exhibit and bangles were exchanged with the people who came to see.
  6. The walk then proceeded to another outdoor set up of our event that was held at Cubbon park. Some of the love stories were shared to the people who came and some silence was held.
  7. The walk then proceeded to the first floor with the display of the Kathegala Kanive - A photo exhibit and after which people walked through all the photographs and the 8 trans-women explained their stories and experiences.
  8. The last display was the play NAVA - which was showcased as a show on the same day at 7.30 pm.

We had displayed all the posters and postcards that were specifically designed for all the Bangalore 560 events and we were immensely overwhelmed by all the appreciation, critics and responses.

Thus Chow Chow bath came to an end!