Monday October 23, 2017

Does the West indulge in ‘cultural appropriation’ under the guise of ‘cool trends’?

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Photo: http://www.tattooshunter.com

By Kelly Smith

Deepali Puri entered her friend’s dorm room at The University of Tampa and was immediately faced with one of her Gods: Ganesh. He sat before them, his many hands intertwined between each other and his elephant head stared down upon them. Knowing the ancient religion of Hinduism well enough to know that dirt should be kept far away from any god at any time, she slipped off her shoes before going any closer. But what lay in front of it couldn’t be overcome with her simple shoe removal.

“There were shoes, dirty dishes, and trash in front of it,” the junior human performance major remembers. “Wrappers, dirty mugs, all of it. It’s bad luck, it’s not okay. It’s disrespectful.

But, as the forest green tapestry with the god on it kept hanging, the trash kept piling up. Puri continued to remove her shoes every time she entered the room. Her friends eventually noticed and when she explained why it’s important to keep the area clean, their reply was simple:

“Oh.”

In recent years, there has been an obvious upswing in South Asian religious and cultural symbols being used in Western fashion and decor. In 2013, Selena Gomez wore a bindi, a ceremonial piece of jewelry worn by Hindu women to mark their status of being married during her performance at the MTV Music Video Awards. There are now retail stores popping up all around Tampa, such as Agora in Ybor City and Earth Bound Trading in Citrus Park Mall, that specialize in selling items that relate to the culture: statues of Ganesh, the god of education and overcoming obstacles, tapestries with the om symbol on them, a Sanskrit symbol that represents the divinity of the universe, statues of Shivas, little gods that represent harmony and balance in the universe, hamsa wall hangers to keep away the evil spirits and negative energy; the list goes on and on.

On top of fashion statements and home knickknacks, these symbols are now tattooed on people of all ages all around the country. On Instagram, there are accounts specifically created to post photos of these types of tattoos, one being titled “Hippie Tattoos.” It has 82,800 followers.

But, as Puri spoke about the disrespect she felt her roommates showed her god hanging on their wall, her feelings seemed to reflect the media’s backlash towards Gomez for being “culturally insensitive.” According to Puri, it really is a big deal to borrow these symbols.

“No one knows what they actually mean, and that’s the problem. These aren’t just decorations,” said Puri. “They’re symbols that have been around for thousands upon thousands of years—that obviously means something.”

Professor Daniel Dooghan is a seasoned professor who has specialized in a variety of topics, including Chinese religion and culture. When it comes to discussing how we represent people from cultures other than what is considered the Western “norm,” his eyes light up and his mouth never stops moving. He has taught numerous theory classes at UT, including Post-Colonial Literature and Theory, which focuses heavily on problems such as exploitation of minority groups, most commonly defined as cultural appropriation.

“Yes, it’s a problem, but—no one owns anything, ultimately. We have been borrowing things from other cultures for a very long time and weird stuff happens,”

In Dooghan’s opinion, the tattooing of Hindu gods and symbols on the body is just kids trying to look cool. These types of tattoo fads go back to the 90’s, when getting Chinese symbols tattooed seemed to be the “it” thing. Now South Asian styled ones are “it.” He describes putting these devotional symbols onto one’s body as “a dick move.”

“When you do this and you don’t have a connection to it, you’re reducing something that is different and saying that you can possess it. You’re saying [Hindu people’s beliefs] are irrelevant compared to your need to look cool at the bar,” says Dooghan.

Phillip Wolves is a twenty six year old beast topping nearly six feet and tattooed from head to toe. He has been in the tattooing profession for five years and splits his time between shops found in both New York and Boca Raton. He specializes in South Asian symbolic tattoos: Ganesh’s, lotus flowers, and hamsas. According to him, the average walk-in customer requesting an eastern motif based in spiritualism is female, ranging from the ages 18-26. Of the three, they most commonly request the sacred symbol of a lotus flower. These customers usually have a shallow understandings of their cultural context, he says, but explains that each comes requesting them with a story that is valid and memorable in its own right.

“I think we as human beings are all connected by things that transcend race, gender, religion and creed. Every culture has their versions of social structure and iconography that help illustrate the same concepts as anyone else’s,” said Wolves. “It’s only natural that there might be appeal to these concepts and ideals.”

Kayla Cunningham, a 23-year-old mother of two who lives in Tampa, Florida, feels strongly about non-Hindu people being able to borrow these symbols without criticism. She thinks that the people who are offended by this should be happy that their symbols have become so influential among people of other religions and cultures; it supports the fact that their power is timeless.

She has accumulated three Asian styled tattoos over the years: a lotus flower, a Geisha, and a cherry blossom tree. Although Cunningham claims she doesn’t have much knowledge about any religious associations that her tattoos may have, she has created her own stories and meanings behind them.

Her Geisha, for example, was placed on her body after she escaped an abusive relationship because of a Geisha’s reputation of holding great power over men. Her lotus flower represents the rebirth she experienced when she left addiction behind her. And, her cherry blossom tree reminds her of how fragile life is.

When Puri looks at the symbols that remind her so much of her belief system, she also feels connected to the billions of people that share them with her; and what she really wants is for people to just understand the tremendous importance of that.

“What it really comes down to, for me at least, is that everyone just needs to just start listening and being more aware and open about it all: these aren’t just fashion statements, they’re so much more than that,” said Puri.

They’re gods. They’re symbols that people turn to in times of need. They’re comforts from a land across the globe that some Hindus here won’t ever visit, but will still claim to be their home. They’re images of familiarity that brings a place as massive and as populated as India completely together, as one. They aren’t just a trend.

And, while some people say you may be an asshole for exploiting a group of people on the other side of the world at your expense of looking cool, Dooghan thinks that at the end of the day, there are bigger problems to be solved here.

“None of these things make you a horrible racist,” Dooghan said. “We just need to talk about how we collectively talk about other parts of the world.”

Source: http://theminaretonline.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is so insensitive. If christianity was sensationalised in the same way you can only imagine the backlash. All we are asking is that you get to know about our culture and religion and not just get tattoos in sanskrit just because its “cool”.

    • Oh, I’m sorry. Are your elephant and mouse gods upset? Do you need your mommy? Maybe you should go pray on the Ganges if you can make your way past all the half burned and rotting corpses floating in the water.

      • I believe that we should raise the level of discourse instead of you just posting stupid baseless comments . What are you trying to say that Hinduism is the land of fanatical elephant and mouse god’s ? You know what I too can make an offensive comment about your religion but I don’t really see the point of making such stupid comments which are neither here nor there .

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Know Why Women Of “Apatanis tribe” Harm Their Faces: Arunachal Pradesh

The Apatanis women are believed to be the exceptional beauty in Arunachal Pradesh.  With their beauty, arrived a danger of theft of apatanis women by neighboring tribes.

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Apatani Tribal Women. Wikimedia

Arunachal Pradesh, July 1, 2017: India is a land of many tribes which forms its rich cultural heritage. One such tribe is Apatanis also known as Tanw, which lives in Ziro valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

This tribe is famous for their colorful culture with various festivals, vibrant traditional village councils detailed and complex handloom designs and cane and bamboo crafts skill. They reside in very basic bamboo huts resting on top of vertical wooden stilts.  The Apatanis worships nature by praying sun and moon. Apatanis are also known for their distinctive way of sustainable farming and social forestry.

The Apatanis women are believed to be the exceptional beauty in Arunachal Pradesh.  With their beauty, arrived a danger of theft of apatanis women by neighboring tribes.

Majority of women on the earth are considered to be delicate pieces of physical beauty. The outer beauty is not seen as a blessing of god but the parameter on which the girl is admired, adorned or loved. No matter, how beautiful a woman is but the beautiful looks always wins in captivating the eye. People are more tempted by what they see than what they feel.

Beauty is a positive term that is why it attracts people. Especially, if we talk of outer beauty, the desire of it makes people cross their limits and restore to wrong practices.

Rape, sexual assault, kidnapping and forceful marriage are some examples of these wrongful deeds. A lady finds variety of ways to protect herself from the cruel world. Some learn self defense, some keep weapons, some don’t go out alone in night, some keep pepper spray and  some employ special bodyguards to  save themselves.

But, these tribal women found the solution in killing the root of the problem itself. Their pretty faces were very appealing to the neighbor tribes which lead to kidnapping of these women.

They altered their faces by inserting huge nose plugs and tattooing their faces in order to safeguard their lives. Their decision showed their bravery of letting go their outer beauty.  They preferred a life without beauty instead of physical beauty because their life was very much more than physical beauty to them.

The older women of tribe can still be spotted with inked faces and nose plugs. The further inserting of nose plugs and inking of faces have been banned by government.

The beauty they portrayed by disregarding their face appearance was beyond words. But on the other hand, hurting oneself just for getting secured is not a good choice. Will you spoil your face by the fear of getting raped; will you hurt yourself so much and make your outer skin ugly to protect yourselves from all the evil crimes of outer beauty?

– by Surbhi Dhawan. Twitter @surbhi_dhawan

 

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Engraving a Symbolic Idea: The Tale Of Tattoos in India

With a blend of creativity and fashion, tattoos have transformed over the years, from tattooing for beauty and tradition to that of fashion and belief

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Tattoo Designs. Image Source: tattooeddesign.com
  • Tattooing is an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental experience
  • Various tribes use tattoos for several purposes from recording historic events to strengthening the marital relationship between couples
  • Tattoos are also used to strengthen the marital relationship between couples and depict their resolve to a particular faith

Tattooing is not a contemporary idea rather it has come a long way. The only difference that we now find in the popular tattoo culture is that it has become more customised one. It is now used as a symbolism to share personal life-stories and much more. From the tribes to urban youth, India is obsessed with Tattoo culture and holds it close to heart.

In India, tattooing is an age-old tradition. Various tribes used tattoos for different purposes from recording historic events to strengthening the marital relationship between couples. With a blend of creativity and fashion, tattoos have transformed over the years, from tattooing for beauty and tradition to that of fashion and belief, said the Statesman.com report.

  • The tribes of Singhpo of Assam and Arunachal, had distinct rules for each gender and age. While the unmarried Singpho girls were barred from wearing tattoos, the married women were tattooed on both legs from the ankles to the knees.  The men tattooed their hands.
  • The Konyaks a tribe of Nagaland tattooed their faces to show their prowess in battle and headcount. Tattoos also helped in establishing tribal identity in the region and helped in the recognition of the dead.
  • In Southern India, permanent tattoos are called pachakutharathu. They were very common, especially in Tamil Nadu, before 1980. To keep them safe and secure until reunited with deceased ancestors in the afterlife, a kollam, a sinuous labyrinthine design was inked on the bodies.
  • Tattoo on a old woman’s hand. Image Source: Flickr

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  • The Dhanuks in Bihar tattooed their women to deglamorise them. The women from lower castes had to have visible parts of their bodies tattooed to signal their inferior status.
  • Munda men have a tattoo on their foreheads, three straight vertical lines which represents the three victorious battles of the Mundas against the Mughals. Here the tattoos are used to record historic events.
  • The Gonds of Central India, one of India’s largest tribes, traditionally left much of their bodies exposed. The bare skin was covered with kohkana (Gondi for tattoos) to ensure they looked decent.
  • The men of the Santhal tribes of Bengal and inscribe odd number of tattoos on their forearms and wrists. The odd numbers signify life and even numbers symbolise death in Santhal cosmology. The women of Santhal are subjected to extreme pain by tattooing their bodies with floral patterns. It is done so as they believe that painful experiences prepare a girl for motherhood.

    Image Source:.freetattoodesigns.org
    Tattoo made on the neck of a woman. Image Source: freetattoodesigns.org

Tattoos are also used to strengthen the marital relationship between couples and depict their resolve to a particular faith.

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According to the Statesman.com report, Nagaland’s Mo Naga, one of the three Indians featured in the World Atlas of Tattoo. He wants to create modern patterns emerging out of the traditional designs and has founded the Headhunters’ Ink Tattoo School at Guwahati. Using modern machines and techniques of tattooing, he seeks to revive the traditional designs of the tribes of the North-east.

An elephant tattoo on hand. Image Source: The better India

The art of tattooing is one thing but the symbolic meaning and the tales behind it, is what makes a tattoo iconic. We often associate pictures, songs and certain symbols with people, memories, ideas and beliefs. When some of these are worth submerging ourselves into or when we are ready to completely embrace these emotions or ideas, tattooing them make them immortal. They are now permanent and represent who you are. These symbols that are engraved into you become an eternal ideal.

The process of tattooing is a ritual. Though done in different ways, the essential idea is the same. Hence, it is not wrong to say that tattooing is an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental experience.

prepared by Ajay Krishna an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Guinness World Record: Indian origin Delhi man Har Parkash Rishi removes all teeth and gets over 500 tattoos

Born in 1942 in a cinema hall in the capital, New Delhi, Rishi first got into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1990 when, with two friends, he rode a scooter for 1,001 hours.

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Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, poses for a photograph outside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

An Indian man obsessed with setting Guinness world records got 366 flags tattooed on his body and had all his teeth removed so he could put nearly 500 drinking straws and more than 50 burning candles in his mouth.

Har Parkash Rishi, who claims to have set more than 20 records, now calls himself Guinness Rishi.

Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, poses for a photograph outside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, poses for a photograph outside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Born in 1942 in a cinema hall in the capital, New Delhi, Rishi first got into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1990 when, with two friends, he rode a scooter for 1,001 hours.

The passion to get his name in the record book led him to perform some bizarre acts, including delivering a pizza from New Delhi to San Francisco and gulping a bottle of tomato ketchup in less than four minutes.

He even got his family involved – his wife Bimla holds a 1991 record for writing the world’s shortest will: “All to Son”.

Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, is pictured inside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, is pictured inside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

While it is the tattoos on his body, more than 500 in all, that brought him fame, Rishi, an auto parts manufacturer by profession, says the toughest one was stuffing the straws in his mouth.

“I am the world record holder of 496 straws in my mouth … For that record, I needed space, I had to remove every tooth so that I could put maximum straws in my mouth,” Rishi told Reuters Television before re-enacting the feat on camera.

Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, poses for a photograph outside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Guinness Rishi, 74, multiple world record holder including most flags tattooed on his body, poses for a photograph outside his apartment in New Delhi, India May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

He is now getting images of global leaders tattooed on his body to add to images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Barack Obama, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement. (Reuters)

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2 responses to “Guinness World Record: Indian origin Delhi man Har Parkash Rishi removes all teeth and gets over 500 tattoos”

  1. Everyone has their own passion for something. This is good that some Indian is being recognised on a global platform for his craze of tattoos.

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