Komal Mistri’s ‘Come With Your Own Light’: Pain and pleasures of motherhood : The Tribune India

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Komal Mistri’s ‘Come With Your Own Light’: Pain and pleasures of motherhood

Komal Mistri trains her camera towards delivery rooms and maternity wards

Komal Mistri’s ‘Come With Your Own Light’: Pain and pleasures of motherhood

‘Beginning’. Photograph Print on WP Plywood. photos courtesy: Latitude 28

Monica Arora

It isn’t just another art show. Hosted by New Delhi-based Latitude 28 art gallery, ‘Come With Your Own Light’ is a curation of artist Komal Mistri’s unique experimentation of spending time in delivery rooms and maternity wards of hospitals in Gujarat during the pandemic. In 2022, Mistri began entering the rarefied space of labour rooms and interacted with women on the verge of birthing. There were conversations with immediate family members, husbands, sisters, mothers, mothers-in-law, too.


It is interesting to see how the artist chose to witness the process of giving birth to a new life amidst the death and despair that encompassed the world during the pandemic. How the cycle of life and death is actually completed in these stark and sterile surgical tables in hospitals is what piques the viewer.

The Baroda-based artist shares that she has even scraped the gallery’s walls in order to create the right ambience for her visuals. “It is important to bring these images to viewers in all their reality. My photographic prints mounted on plywood are a true-to-life portrayal of the pain, emotional turmoil and anxiety witnessed by to-be mothers and families in the labour room,” she says.

The idea is to depict how welcoming a newborn is not just about celebration and birthing rituals, but also about the physical and mental changes that a woman goes through during the nine months of pregnancy, and how this may or may not be just about positivity. There is ambiguity about how life changes once the baby is born. There are questions about appearance and vanity. The artist discovered that soon-to-be mothers often wondered: “Will the stretch marks disappear? Will I lose weight? Will I regain my figure?” All these and more were a part and parcel of the intricate exchanges that the artist had with the mothers before and after delivery. Patriarchy rears its head in the important and the mundane. “Sometimes, there is concern about the gender of the child. Sometimes, the conversations are about stuff like how long will the wife take to recover from childbirth and start household chores. One family was very upset as they had been managing without the daughter-in-law’s help ever since she had been hospitalised.”

As a friend and confidante, Mistri has been able to chronicle the harsh realities of life at childbirth that is also about blood, snipping of umbilical cords, postpartum depression and familial equations. The images on display are a mix of shocking details encompassing the womb and other anatomical details, but these are balanced by happy faces, exhausted smiles and relieved countenances of real mothers. From graffiti on walls to an apprehensive-looking mother who has suffered the ordeal of a long labour; from a hook bearing carelessly hung clothes to bottles of medicines; and from blood-stained hospital beds to the contentment writ large on a new mother’s face — Komal Mistri’s body of work reveals a multitude of emotions.

The cycle of life and death is intrinsically interlinked and gets magnified in hospital spaces. How does it influence you as a human being? These and more such questions find in-depth analysis in this one-of-its-kind show.

Familiar objects such as scissors, stretchers and bottles of blood, amidst tongs, placentas and surgical trays juxtaposed with bangle-clad wrists; lifted legs during a medical examination; a reassuring hand on the forehead; bundles of cotton and bandages; a colourful printed piece of cloth — all these and more form the compelling narrative that captures the behind-the-scene action in maternity wards. On till June 15


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