Maharanie Jhillu, 27, uses art to explore her identity. When Jill was born, most of her relatives had already died. “I feel like there’s very little documentation of photos, stories, etc. Where’s that part of me?” she asked. Thus, by studying different cultures, she began to explore feelings about identity, and her reflection allowed Jhillu to create her own identity. “My identity can be as dynamic as I want it to be. I can paint a blueprint for her own life,” Jill said. “Also, going back in time gives you a strong sense of self and allows you to ask yourself what you want to bring with you.” Jhillu began to sense his ancestry from different cultures through art.
She said she was fascinated by how Indian women wore sarees before British colonization. The British believed in modesty, and all forms of nudity were considered morally corrupt. Jhillu used bed sheets to recreate this look in the photo shoot. Cultural preservation is not only rooted in the past. It is also about exploring the present. Jill’s ancestry is from India, but she has also drawn inspiration from her black friends, who have diversified her art and challenged her to recreate the texture of her hair. For, she painted a black woman with an afro and piercing eyes.
“Your hands seemed to know what to do, but you don’t. You just know, but how do you know? she said. After completing her painting, Jill said she felt her female eyes looking at her as she moved around her room. For months, her painting eye relented. She called the painting “Ancestral Gaze”. Each of these artistic endeavors helped ease her grief about her culture being lost and unappreciated.
Jhillu also began using art to regulate and process other negative emotions. During an emotional period in her life, she painted a nude woman drowning in a wine bottle with her hands tied. She called the painting “in a bottle.” Jill described her feelings of frustration, sadness and anger. She was overwhelmed and was able to isolate and process each of her own emotions while painting her.
A contrasting painting entitled “Happiness” is also a woman in a bottle, but the woman is neither naked nor drowning. This is synonymous with meditation and clearing the mind. Trees and other greenery are sprouting around her.
Jhillu was able to paint this after overcoming his negative emotions. “Other people don’t always understand the difficult situations you’re going through in life. Art has created a space where I don’t feel judged. I found a form and art became it,” she said.
Using art to deal with emotional pain has also helped her develop patient, more sustainable relationships. It offers a very good approach to dealing with people because even in situations you have to be patient with both yourself and the other person. [people] outside you,” she added. Jhillu hears more before becoming reactive. Her patience made her more self-aware when dealing with conflicts and helped her respond with compassion when trying to find a solution.
Finding solutions to problems has allowed Jhillu to become a creative entrepreneur focused not only on financial prosperity, but also on the emotional liberation of his clients. She started her business in 2020 called ArtfulExpressions592. The process is scary, she said, but she has no regrets about sharing her art. Jhillu studied business at the University of Guyana. This background allows her to host sip and painting events, exhibitions with other local artists, and events that incorporate social awareness around art and mental health. Singers, poets, and therapists spoke with attendees and answered questions about mental health. It was a useful exercise for Jill as well, and this was her way of sharing her own vulnerable parts with the community.
She hopes her work will connect with others with purpose and inspire them to showcase their talents. I love it, it makes me feel inspired and grateful that people can relate to it, it makes me want to do more, create more, find out where I can be more purposeful,” she says. said. “It’s a scary process because artists are putting themselves out there, but once you put yourself out there…just take a step. If it has to be baby steps, that’s fine. You I imagine a far worse scenario than possible.”
Perhaps baby steps can help Guyanese become more open about sharing their spiritual struggles. It’s a topic. It can be individuals who initiate cultural changes that can change society for the better. Individuals throughout history have caused both positive and negative change. When it comes to mental health, it’s not far-fetched to imagine that Jill’s events would make a huge difference to Guyanese indifference and silence.