an ordinary woman with an extraordinary imagination
Kripa Joshi is an Illustrator and Comic Artist from Nepal.
She completed her BFA in painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in India with Indian Council of Cultural Relations Scholarship. After her graduation she worked for a few years as an art teacher in Nepal.
In 2005, she received the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. During this time she started making comics and developed the character of Miss Moti.
She has self-published her comics and sells them online and at comic conventions. Miss Moti has been a part of various anthologies. She has also been a part of various anthologies, illustrated children’s book and conducted art and comics workshop for children and adults. Her work has also been exhibited in various institutions like London Transport Museum, The Lightbox in Woking and the Comix Creatrix exhibition at the House of Illustration in London.
She currently lives in the UK with her husband and daughter.
Miss Moti was born out of the author Kripa Joshi's struggle with weight. A friend of hers had given her the nickname Moti, which means a plump woman. However, the word can also mean a pearl if you say it with a softer “T”. Thus, when searching for a name for her character, she realized that Moti would be the perfect fit... it would represent a woman who was plump and also displayed a sense of purity and innocence. The Miss Moti logo reflects this.
The issue of weight was a subject of Joshi's BFA thesis Sofa so Good. In this series she depicted humans as different kinds of sofas and chairs. These furniture are made to fit the human body and also share similar terminology like ‘backs’ ‘legs’ and ‘arm’.
One such painting Shadows Lie was a reflection on how during the evenings her shadow would be elongated and she would feel tall and slim when it reality that was not the case.
Then in 2005, Joshi received the Fulbright scholarship to pursue MFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The idea for Miss Moti germinated with a painting called Hippo. The format of the painting is based on the Indian miniature paintings where we often see a colourful intricate image surrounded by an equally intricate golden border filled with plants and animals.
The emphasis of ‘beauty’ in our society leads many people to have a negative body image about themselves, especially when it comes to weight. Humans also tend to compare themselves to animals to describe a characteristic. The term “as fat as a hippo” is derogatory. However, it is ironic that the animals themselves do not have any anxiety about the way they look. In the painting, we see a plump woman wrapped in a towel feeling self-conscious about getting into the pool with other slim and attractive people. On the border area, painted in gold lines, we see hippos enjoying wallowing in the water along side the more slender storks.
The painting was meant to be part of a series that dealt with people and their so-called animal counterparts. However, something about the woman resonated with Joshi and she decided to focus on this character. After this painting, the next image that was created was a silkscreen print of the character swimming in the water. Unlike the previous painting, here the character is happy and at home in the water... like a hippo.
And so Joshi got the idea of creating a character that would find peace and happiness despite what she did or didn’t look like... and Miss Moti was born. During that time, there was a History of Comics module being taught at SVA. Also, the bookstores were carrying a varied selection of comics and graphic novels. These led Joshi to try out a new medium and tell the stories through a comic.
She was most influenced by Winsor McCay and Chris Ware. Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (where a young boy would and have these wonderful adventures during bedtime only to wake up at the end) provided an idea for the context where fantasy and reality would merge together. On the other hand Chris Ware’s attention to detail and page design helped to develop the visual language. She also received a lot of help from her thesis advisers Stephen Savage and David Sandlin.
The first Miss Moti stories were Miss Moti and Cotton Candy and Miss Moti and the Big Apple which have been self published. Since then there have been many shorter stories of varied themes that have appeared in various anthologies like Rabid Rabbit, Secret Identities and Strumpet. These have been collected in Miss Moti and her Short Stories.
Most of the comics are without speech bubbles and have minimum words. This can help readers to place their own thought and feelings into the stories and could also help cross the language barrier.
The start of 2016 marked the beginning of the weekly Motivation Mondays series which pair Miss Moti with motivational quotes. You can follow her work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are also being published in Nepali Times, a leading Nepali Newspaper.
In a world that places so much important on appearance, Miss Moti is an unlikely ‘hero’. She is plump and big and her life might seem very ordinary. However, as her fertile imagination blurs the line between fantasy and reality, we realize that her life, like her personality, is indeed extraordinary.