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TEDGlobal 2011

Raghava KK: Shake up your story

July 12, 2011

Artist Raghava KK demos his new children's book for iPad with a fun feature: when you shake it, the story -- and your perspective -- changes. In this charming short talk, he invites all of us to shake up our perspective a little bit.

Raghava KK - Artist
Raghava KK's paintings and drawings use cartoonish shapes and colors to examine the body, society, our world. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Hi everyone.
00:15
I'm an artist and a dad -- second time around.
00:17
Thank you.
00:20
And I want to share with you my latest art project.
00:22
It's a children's book for the iPad.
00:25
It's a little quirky and silly.
00:28
It's called "Pop-It,"
00:30
And it's about the things little kids do with their parents.
00:32
(Music)
00:35
So this is about potty training --
00:37
as most of you, I hope, know.
00:39
You can tickle the rug.
00:42
You can make the baby poop.
00:44
You can do all those fun things.
00:46
You can burst bubbles.
00:50
You can draw, as everyone should.
00:54
But you know, I have a problem with children's books:
00:58
I think they're full of propaganda.
01:00
At least an Indian trying to get one of these American books in Park Slope, forget it.
01:02
It's not the way I was brought up.
01:05
So I said, "I'm going to counter this with my own propaganda."
01:08
If you notice carefully,
01:10
it's a homosexual couple bringing up a child.
01:12
You don't like it?
01:15
Shake it, and you have a lesbian couple.
01:17
(Laughter)
01:20
Shake it, and you have a heterosexual couple.
01:22
You know, I don't even believe in the concept of an ideal family.
01:26
I have to tell you about my childhood.
01:29
I went to this very proper Christian school
01:31
taught by nuns, fathers, brothers, sisters.
01:34
Basically, I was brought up to be a good Samaritan,
01:37
and I am.
01:39
And I'd go at the end of the day to a traditional Hindu house,
01:41
which was probably the only Hindu house
01:44
in a predominantly Islamic neighborhood.
01:46
Basically, I celebrated every religious function.
01:50
In fact, when there was a wedding in our neighborhood,
01:53
all of us would paint our houses for the wedding.
01:56
I remember we cried profusely
01:58
when the little goats we played with in the summer
02:00
became biriani.
02:02
(Laughter)
02:04
We all had to fast during Ramadan.
02:06
It was a very beautiful time.
02:08
But I must say,
02:10
I'll never forget, when I was 13 years old, this happened.
02:12
Babri Masjid --
02:15
one of the most beautiful mosques in India,
02:17
built by King Babur, I think, in the 16th century --
02:19
was demolished by Hindu activists.
02:22
This caused major riots in my city.
02:24
And for the first time,
02:26
I was affected
02:28
by this communal unrest.
02:30
My little five-year-old kid neighbor
02:32
comes running in,
02:34
and he says, "Rags, Rags.
02:36
You know the Hindus are killing us Muslims. Be careful."
02:39
I'm like, "Dude, I'm Hindu."
02:42
(Laughter)
02:44
He's like, "Huh!"
02:45
You know, my work is inspired
02:48
by events such as this.
02:51
Even in my gallery shows,
02:53
I try and revisit historic events
02:55
like Babri Masjid,
02:57
distill only its emotional residue
02:59
and image my own life.
03:01
Imagine history being taught differently.
03:03
Remember that children's book
03:05
where you shake and the sexuality of the parents change?
03:06
I have another idea.
03:09
It's a children's book about Indian independence --
03:10
very patriotic.
03:13
But when you shake it, you get Pakistan's perspective.
03:15
Shake it again, and you get the British perspective.
03:17
(Applause)
03:20
You have to separate fact from bias, right.
03:25
Even my books on children
03:27
have cute, fuzzy animals.
03:29
But they're playing geopolitics.
03:31
They're playing out Israel-Palestine,
03:33
India-Pakistan.
03:35
You know, I'm making a very important argument.
03:37
And my argument [is]
03:39
that the only way for us to teach creativity
03:41
is by teaching children perspectives
03:45
at the earliest stage.
03:47
After all, children's books are manuals on parenting,
03:49
so you better give them children's books that teach them perspectives.
03:51
And conversely,
03:54
only when you teach perspectives
03:56
will a child be able to imagine
03:58
and put themselves in the shoes
04:00
of someone who is different from them.
04:02
I'm making an argument that art and creativity
04:04
are very essential tools in empathy.
04:06
You know, I can't promise my child
04:09
a life without bias --
04:11
we're all biased --
04:13
but I promise to bias my child with multiple perspectives.
04:15
Thank you very much.
04:18
(Applause)
04:20

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Raghava KK - Artist
Raghava KK's paintings and drawings use cartoonish shapes and colors to examine the body, society, our world.

Why you should listen

Raghava KK began his career in art as a newspaper cartoonist, and the cartoonist’s bold line -- and dead-on eye for truth -- still powers his art. His work spans painting, sculpture, installation, film and iPad art, always linked by his challenging opinions on identity, conformity, gender, celebrity, ceremony. (He even views his lavish Indian wedding as a piece of performance art.)

His early work as a painter made a complete break with his cartoon career -- he painted watercolors on canvas using only his hands and feet. Since then, his work has grown to knit together aesthetics from both worlds, as collage and complication play against flat color and precise lines. He shows in galleries and performance spaces around the world and often collaborates with other artists, most recently with musicians Paul Simon and Erykah Badu.  In 2011, he launched his children's iPad book, Pop-it, shaking up the concept  of an ideal family. He is currently working on a project that promises to shake up everything! From news to education.

The original video is available on TED.com
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