Welcome to Olakh and the University of Wisconsin’s digital archive of grassroots feminist posters from India. This is a brand new addition to our Gender and Women’s Studies Collection.
India has been home to a vibrant women’s movement (or rather women’s movements) with a global influence. Historically, grassroots women’s organizations — initiated and sustained by farmers, students, workers and housewives alike — have been the backbone of the women’s movement. These groups have had a vast repertoire of communication strategies for creating awareness, mobilizing support, and protesting against injustice. However, posters have been one of the most widely and effectively used communication media.
The poster collection represented in this archive is physically located in the offices of the feminist organization, Olakh (meaning Identity) in India. Members of Olakh have designed and produced some of these posters. Many others they have collected from different women’s groups and feminist organizations from all over India. These posters are not simply beautiful pieces of material culture created by individual artists. Most of the posters are the outcome of a collective political process in which community members, activists, students, and/or survivors brainstorm together to translate a deep social concern into words and images.
Even though posters have been widely produced and used in the women’s movement, few organizations have preserved or documented them systematically. When posters are lost to decay or simply gather dust in storerooms or cupboards of individual organizations, they are lost to future generations who wish to engage with the material aspects of historic moments characterized by struggle and social change. Olakh has done a commendable work in collecting and preserving these posters over three decades and University of Wisconsin-Madison extends this work further by supporting preservation, cataloging and wider sharing of this rich historical material.
This brand new collection can be found in the Gender and Women’s Studies Collection. We hope you take the time to look at these beautiful posters that represent a unique part of India’s history.