Name: Durgabai Vyam
What she does: Artist
Impact: Raising awareness of caste discrimination against Dalits
Nominated by: Bethan Cobley, One World Action
Durgabai Vyam is one of the innovative artists of the controversial graphic novel Bhimayana – a novel that confronts caste discrimination against Dalits inIndia. Caste discrimination denies Dalits, basic human rights and confines them in a system that rates them as less than human.
Durgabai has played a pivotal role bringing to light the often taboo subject of how Dalits are treated and has exposed the many costs – emotional, psychological and physical – of caste discrimination. Through her compelling use of traditional graphic art, Durgabai’s artistic skill provides the book with a unique and powerful vision.
Through her work Durgabai has taken risks: she has transcended the boundaries of the traditionally western genre of graphic novels by refusing to confine her art within conventional boxes. Durgabai’s innovative style challenges perceptions of the acceptability of caste discrimination and encourages dialogue by confronting societal values. Using her artistic vision to visually stimulate change, Durgabai has paved the way for further discussions which highlight and challenge caste discrimination, giving a voice to Dalits through this vibrant and compelling piece of work.
Durgabai was the runner up in the Arts and Media category. The award was collected on her behalf by Meena Varma from the UK Dalit Solidarity Network.