“Nuclear disarmament is usually spoken about on such a high level. I believe that art has the power to humanise some of the most pressing issues that the world faces today.”

Anjali Chandrashekar, a 22-year-old artist from India, was among the three winners of this year’s UN poster competition, aimed at raising awareness about nuclear disarmament. Her work has gained recognition from many high-profile figures, including UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

The New York-based designer won the third prize in UN Poster for Peace contest presented by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA). Her poster, “Cutting Barriers Through Peace”, features a dove slicing a nuclear weapon.

Here, Anjali writes for the IPF about the inspiration behind her work and the potential she sees in art to bring peace to the world.

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Anjali poses with the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. [Image credit: Anjali Chandrashekar]

In her words

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first UN General Assembly resolution, which established the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, the ODA sponsored the UN Poster for Peace contest. The contest aimed to raise awareness about the need for nuclear disarmament and inspire citizens across the globe to use their artistic talents to promote a world free of nuclear weapons. With more than 4,000 entries received from around the world, I had the honour of having two of my posters chosen for the official 2016 campaign.

The two posters use very simple imagery and symbolism of nuclear weapons and peace and juxtapose them to create a contrast that plainly calls out for nuclear disarmament.

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Anjali’s winning work for the UN poster competition about nuclear disarmament. [Image credit: Anjali Chandrashekar]

The role of art in nuclear disarmament

In 2010, world military expenditures exceeded some $1.5 trillion. The need for a culture of peace and for significant arms reduction worldwide has never been greater. And this applies to all classes of weapons. While nuclear disarmament has been a tremendously difficult challenge, campaigns like these help lobby and spread a message that peace is possible if we all work together towards it.

I thought this was a great opportunity for me to show that a brush can be mightier than arms.

I believe that peace and security can be strengthened through nuclear disarmament, however, it is a long term ambition that requires patience and persistence. Nuclear disarmament is usually spoken about on such a high level and I believe that art has the power to humanise some of the most pressing issues that the world faces today.

Using art for social justice

I have always been excited by imagery and colour. I have been painting since the age of four. My grandmother ran a trust for children with multiple disabilities in my hometown of Bangalore, India. Growing up with them from a very young age made me realise how lucky I was to be what people would call “normal”.

I realised that I had this really powerful platform where I could talk about issues that I held close to my heart. That’s when it all began.

At the age of 10 I founded Picture It, a global social project that uses art to raise funds and awareness for various health, humanitarian and environmental causes for national and international organisations, including several campaigns affiliated with the UN. Picture It has raised thousands of dollars for insulin for children in developing countries and also funded dialysis for poor patients at the Kidney Research Foundation in my hometown of Chennai, India.

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Anjali has vowed to continue using her art to promote social justice causes. [Image credit: Anjali Chandrashekar]

Although art is subjective, I believe it has the power to move people in profound ways. It also transcends barriers of age, language and literacy.

My first international publication that was brought out by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. It was a poster about earthquakes and disaster management. As a 10-year-old, I realised for the first time that my work was bigger than me and that it could impact far more people than I imagined.

While finding solutions to nuclear disarmament might not be something every citizen can directly impact, I’m very passionate about educating people about humanitarian issues like race, gender and inequality in different realms. I have also always tried to work with as many organisations as I can on environmental conservation and raising awareness about endangered species.

I want to continue pursuing my work with Picture It by collaborating with people and organisations all over the world and using my art to raise awareness about pressing issues that the world faces today.