By Prarthana Mitra
Twenty-one-year-old Chennai-based artist Sathviga Sridhar launched her first full-length comic book at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Earth Day. Her book, titled TRé and which is based on the devastating Chennai floods of 2015, won UNICEF’s inaugural Climate Comic Contest.
Climate Change is no comical matter.
Young Indian artist Satvigha "Sona" Sridhar's visualisation of super hero – TRè – is being launched, by @UNICEF, to promote sustainable development through Comics United Nations.
Thanks for advance copy. 😊https://t.co/tr5K0tAXG5 pic.twitter.com/53PxKYIxug
— Syed Akbaruddin (@AkbaruddinIndia) April 19, 2018
Here’s what happened
Out of 3000 superhero submissions from 100 participating nations, Sridhar’s character ‘TRé’, a creature who is half tree-half human uses special powers to save nature from destruction, was chosen as the winner of the contest organised by the United Nations in partnership with Comics Uniting Nations. According to the official website, Sona went on to collaborate with UNICEF, Comics Uniting Nations and DeCheser Media to produce the full comic book after her stupendous victory.
The event entitled “Youth Power the Planet: an SDG Activate Talk to Celebrate Earth Day” aimed to inspire and engage children and youth to take climate action through the creative medium of comic design. UNICEF added, “This series leverages the universal visual language and transformative power of comics to educate people in every corner of the globe about the sustainable development goals and empower them to create positive and lasting change in their own communities and worldwide.”
President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lakcak congratulated Sridhar, saying, “You make me optimistic about our future. We can all do with some comic relief as the threat of climate change closes in on us.” He added, “But, on a serious note, these comics confront a difficult truth: we are driving our planet on a destructive course. We need planet-protecting superheroes to turn this around.”
— Global Goals (@GlobalGoalsUN) April 22, 2018
Here’s what Sridhar had to say
Sona’s story, as she reiterates in the comic’s blurb, is based on a young superhero trying to teach the world that long-term sustainability and survival is more important than short-term economic gains. The artist said, “the choice to make him(Tre) half-human and half-tree was important. This allows him to see both sides of the human development versus natural resources argument when it comes to climate change.”
After her community was hit by devastating floods in 2015, she had actively taken part in providing relief to the severely affected neighbourhoods, only to realise that climate change and global warming had to be curbed. She believes in the power of visuals to bring about positive action, which is why she submitted her art on receiving word about the contest.
Sridhar told Europa Newswire, “I submitted my application twenty minutes before the deadline, and hoped that what I had was enough”. She added, “I want it to be accessible to children – I think it’s an issue that is often heavy to understand, and so maybe in a comic, it can be fun and interesting.”
Why you should care
Graphic novels and comic books have always provided artists with a platform where they can blend imaginative vision with the dystopian reality we cohabit. Graphic narratives have become a popular means of portraying environmental issues, especially when it comes to defending our rivers and the environment in general and can play a crucial role in teaching children how to protect the environment effectively from a young age. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbarrudin, spoke at length about a legal framework to defend rivers and forests in countries ranging from New Zealand to Colombia to India.
Taking a leaf from Orijit Sen’s The River of Stories, a sublime depiction of the Narmada myth and protests that followed over its course till this day, Sridhar’s comic portrays vegetation as the origin of human existence.A snippet from Sridhar’s comic book Tre. Credit: Comics Uniting Nations
You can read the entire comic here.
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