What are we? III

Sosa Joseph Indian

Not on view

Joseph lives and works in the historic multicultural neighborhood of Mattancherry in Fort Kochi, India. Against this vibrant backdrop she set this dreamlike composition of predominantly Muslim women—identified by their dress—going about their everyday routines. This work and two other paintings that depict the lives of women in Mattancherry are titled after Paul Gauguin’s famous painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897–98; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Unlike Gauguin’s colonialist approach toward Tahitian women, Joseph’s examination of her subjects’ interior lives is more sympathetic. "I set out to do a study of women’s lives around me, while being preoccupied about the ‘meaning of women’s lives,’" she has said. "Are women not anything more than means to make men’s lives easier while they go on their quest to make their own lives meaningful?" The existential quandary of this work’s title, What Are We?, may be the query these women ask of themselves and the gendered roles they navigate.

What are we? III, Sosa Joseph (Indian, born Parumala 1971), Oil on canvas

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