Limited edition toys from Princess Pea

Visual and performance artist Princess Pea, who presents herself as an anima character with a giant head, will launch a series of limited edition wooden toys at the India Art Fair.

Princess Pea, who presents herself as an anima character with a giant head, prefers to let the façade speak for itself. A construct that combines the identities of two sisters, Gurgaon-based Princess Pea makes a strong statement about feminist themes and rights of the girl child. In the latest project, the visual and performance artist will launch a series of limited edition sculptures made in wood. Each piece is a work of art, conceptualized and made with great attention to detail by award winning Indian craftsmen from Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh, where the craft has been practiced traditionally since 300 BC. The toys will be exhibited for the first time at the Design Store, India Art Fair (28 – 31 January 2016). The toys mark the first extension of the trademark character, Princess Pea.

Here’s Princess Pea in her own words.

Princess Pea's Fall and Rise, wooden sculptures

Princess Pea’s Fall and Rise, wooden sculptures

Who is Princess Pea and what does she stand for?

The alter ego was conceived in 2009 and is an amalgamation of two sisters. This world of Princess Pea treads a fine line between the world of fairytale and the mundane. The broad scope of art challenges perceptions about our conceived notions of the self. As Princess Pea, we present to the world an alter ego in the form of a ‘living TOY’ an anime style figure that can neither talk, smell nor hear; it’s a fictional world and she is far away from this world. The Princess Pea practice revolves around ideas of identity, notions of perfection, self-worth, conflict between traditional and contemporary roles of women in Indian society, through the ever prevalent issues raised by the cult of the celebrity both in India and abroad.

Why the name Princess Pea? The story that comes to mind is about the princess and the pea.

Actually, the original story came to my knowledge much later. The name of the character basically comes from my sister and me. Being physically opposite, we were always poked and questioned (she for being abnormally underweight and her sister for the opposite!). Also, we nicknamed her pumpkin and I was the tiny pea. While searching for the correct name, I wanted to start from our surnames, which also starts from “P”.  This is very interesting as I have always been interrogating the discomforts and of the “other” and one latest essay could answer my questions, quite a bit.

Here is something which was recently written by “Madam Sosostris” for the project “Pecked Jostled Teased-2014”, “… Our anonymous female artist picks up on the pea as an irritant, a malaise, and asks us to reimagine the real princess as an artist or a humanist, someone who is almost abnormally sensitive to that which causes suffering; a nuance that artist Ranbir Kaleka recently picked up on and articulated in an open letter to Princess Pea. Being in a state of extreme sensitivity lies in the realm of the artist/poet/musician/writer. The artist differs in feeling, and by inference empathy, than the crassness of the daily grind allows. That is the significance of the ‘pea’. It is the humanizing factor, the empathy of the artist… she feels the slightest discomfort of the ‘other’ and you are expanding on the myth to say ‘I feel the ‘pea’ under your mattress. I feel the ‘pain’ of the ‘other’.”

LR-Princess Pea with one of the craftsmen in Etikoppaka, December 2015As a visual and performance artist, how did you come about assuming the identity/alter ego? How does this influence your art?

As an artist, I always wanted to question vocabulary and mediums. I wanted to experiment, while maintaining a reserve. Being anonymous gives me immense space and pleasure. So, I get believers not just viewers. It’s been quite a few years of knitting this character, but I am moving at my own speed, so there is no rush!

Your art is about strong feminist themes. What has drawn you towards these?

Being silent is the best route sometimes. I felt that with this face I can say more and make people think a lot more. Every girl today must have gone through stares and harassments and I am no different! As I come from an Army background, I have seen much of struggle, but always been strong-minded.

How did you come across Etikoppaka and its wood-turning tradition?

In 2011, I started researching about wooden human figurines. It’s the basis of my sculptures. It’s that toy that one studies in art school to learn to draw the basics and body movements. So that’s how I researched and, after four years, I could reach the correct craftspersons to help me create this new range of sculptures.

Tell us about your limited edition toys/sculptures.

The toys are made in wood, with 500 limited edition sculptures. The limited edition of Fall and Rise intends to act like an ambassador. They are not be seen just wooden toys but carry the message​ of a girl rising and a stronger self emerging. (It’s a representation of Princess Pea’s body type, which when pushed from underneath, collapses down, bouncing back when released to stand upright once more, embodying the resilience of the Indian girl-child.)

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