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Alvin Thomas meets Malvika Asher, a young digital artist who got a gig with Google and more recently presented her work to Bob Marley’s son.
Most of you reading this probably already know Malvika Asher, or would have at least viewed one of her works in recent times. Don’t believe me when I say that? Neither did I until I saw one of her illustrations in person.
And according to her friends who phoned me up to pitch Malvika’s portfolio – without her knowledge – as a surprise to her for her birthday, the young digital artist has not only been featured in Oman, but also on an international level.
So, without any further ado, I decided to set up an interview.
Our meeting point is a coffee outlet at the central business district area in Muscat. And after we sit down with our orange juices (nope, Malvika doesn’t drink coffee either), we settle down to chat.
Malvika is a very outgoing and friendly and I discover that we have numerous mutual friends.
“I have lived all my life here in Oman,” chuckles Malvika, who also tells me that she completed her education at the Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir, before moving on to do a course in mass media from a university in Mumbai.
“Ever since I can remember, I wanted to become a journalist. I was also a member of the editorial board and a badge holder in my school. But after graduating from school, I realised that there is much more to journalism than meets the eye. So, I decided to do a general course in media and advertising.
But even then, Malvika says she hadn’t completely come into terms with her passion for art until she was 18. And she only began her love affair with art in 2014, when she received an illustration project from an Indian multi-national company.
“My project with the client didn’t pan out. But one day, I received a very nice personal email from the client, who pointed out that I had a special talent for illustration and that I had to continue pursuing it.
“At that time I didn’t heed it too seriously,” laughs Malvika, who goes on to tell me that she only began pursuing art full time when she came back to Muscat in 2014.
“I was unemployed for seven months after my return to Oman,” she explains.
But Malvika didn’t lose hope and used the time to her benefit. In just a few days, she launched her Facebook page (Malvika Asher), to create a brand name for herself.
“I started putting up really simple works at the beginning to test the waters and see how things are,” she says.
And as luck may have it, Malvika’s page took off with flying colours – literally! Her art works are more avant-garde than traditional, and are mostly saturated with beautiful neon colours that portray a very vibrant image – highlighting her bold imagination and love of colour.
In the span of 18 months, the self-taught artist received more than 4,700 followers. Today, however, she focuses on other platforms such as Instagram.
This newfound traction also attracted a big following. “I believe it is luck alongside the hard work that I do, which has brought me success,” she says.
The artist has personally presented her works to celebrities such as Kristian Nairn, aka Hodor in Game of Thrones, Badshah, one of India’s top rappers, and more recently, Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley.
Malvika’s works first travelled overseas when an international magazine published her illustration of the late singer Prince in May 2016. Following that, in November, she received her greatest accolade – a chance to work with search-engine giant Google for its women empowerment project.
“I was allocated the great Savitribai Phule, who was a social reformer and poet who played a role in improving women’s rights in India during British rule.
“I was not very aware of her achievements then, but I realised that if I did not know anything about her, then chances are that many others wouldn’t either. So, I took this as an opportunity to learn about her and, in the process, also reach out to many people and tell them of the story of Savitribai Phule.
So, armed with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and her WACOM tablet, she began sketching various mood boards and experimenting with colours.
“I described her life [which has barely any content published online] in seven stages: I began with her birth, which I illustrated with very vibrant colours; then I portrayed an image of Savitribai Phule’s husband [Jyotirao Phule] teaching her, with cold and dark colours overlooking a bright lamp [they were married when she was only nine]; third was of her setting up her school; fourth was an image of her receiving praise from the British government for her works; fifth was of the orphanage she had set up, and how she was central to it; sixth was of her lighting the funeral pyre of her husband – something that was not heard of at that time; and finally there was an image celebrating her legacy, where she is seen protecting a young girl.
She points out: “If you share something of social relevance, it has to be heard on a public platform. And we are currently at a time where we do have to voice our opinions in order to make a difference. And that’s why I believe that these paintings are of importance.
“I had a colleague at work, Navneet, she comes from a very difficult background and has seen a lot of pain, and it is she who inspires me in my works towards empowerment of women, or anybody who is in need of having a voice in our society.
Malvika’s work received top spot when it was published as a Google doodle earlier this year.
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