Maya Jay Varadaraj, Large Chakras. Photo Credit: Jonathan Allen

Alum Fights Misogyny with Jewelry

Alum Maya Varadaraj (MDes 2017) is using glass bangles as weapons against patriarchy. In India, glass bangles are worn by married women, and while the particulars of their meaning can vary from state to state, their status as a symbol of husbands' good fortune and prosperity remains the same. Thus, caring for and protecting bangles is very important, in some ways making them more precious than the women who wear them. Varadaraj rejects this.

Using kitchen appliances commonly found in Indian homes, Varadaraj grinds glass bangles down, then melts the shards to form chakras (or chakrams)—little discs with a sharpened outer edge. In hands like the goddess Durga's, chakras can be a symbol of female energy and power. To learn more about how Varadaraj is complicating women's narratives in India, read this write-up of her work on We Make Money Not Art.