In 2006 Zubaan began a new and fascinating project: Poster Women, a visual mapping of the women’s movement in India through the posters the movement had produced. The idea was to ask what the history of the movement would look like through its posters and the visual images it had used, the various campaigns that the movement has engaged with and the forms these campaigns have taken over a period of time. When we initiated this project we were convinced that it was important to collect and document posters from the movement because the women’s movement has been—and remains—an extremely rich, complex and multi-layered movement, which lacks an easily accessible knowledge base.
Out of the 1500 posters that we managed to garnered, an exhibition of over 200 posters was prepared, which traveled to a number of places within India and outside. In its first phase, Poster Women undertook a number of activities, the details of which can be found here.
The encouraging and widespread response that the first phase generated motivated us to fulfil the related dream of documenting the posters and making them more widely available and accessible. Along with this was also the worry that once the posters go back to their groups there is a possibility that they would simply languish and probably disappear. This web archive is an attempt to provide more open access to these posters of the women’s movement, which a physical space would not be able to adequately provide.
The posters in the archive have been thematically organized and the attempt has been annotated in detail, mentioning the date, the campaign, the designer, the story/concept behind the poster, how it was used, the feedback and, where available, short essays that provide background information so that a complete archive is created that demonstrates the richness of the movement. This endeavour has not been entirely successful. Despite all our attempts, details for some of the posters could not be collected. In a lot of the posters no source was mentioned on the poster, so we could not track down the group that produced it; in some cases the group had ceased to exist and none of its members could be located; and in some groups, people who were around when the poster was produced had left the group and could not be traced. We’re hoping that the visitors of this site will help us by providing information about these posters or the groups/individuals that produced them.
This task has involved women’s groups and students from various parts of the country, and would have been impossible to complete without their help. The process also enabled us to learn the value of archiving and how important it is to document living histories as otherwise so much is lost.
We hope that the archive will serve not only women’s groups, feminist activists and other involved with the women’s movement in India, but will also be useful for students and researchers in the field of women’s studies, visual culture, arts and aesthetics and anyone who loves posters!