Thursday, December 21, 2006


i think one of the nicest things about the eastern cultures, is the way they show how one can use cloth for self expression - from sensuousness to businesslike sharpness. with mass media extolling minimalistic (or a lack of) clothing as the only way of making a statement or expressing an attitude, this photograph is such a terrific case for the other side! its supposed to have won a photo of the year award (2005).

its also a very simple non-academic explanation of how even if the west sees certain things as being victimising (like veils), they could have a completely different connotation locally. theres is such a happy, upbeat tone to this picture - who said anything about oppression or loss of identity!

i unfortunately dont know the photographers name. if any of you do, please do let me know! :)



Blogger Krish said...

Umm...definitely a different perspective...but wht I was wondering was on the use of that photo, to that guy who is taking it or the ones who are standing there..I mean wht can be the use of that photo?? How would they identify one another..or how would they even say "hey..its me" would they say to their children or grand children or someone to whom they want to show this photo..I am just amazed...may be they have their own ways...but wht might that be?

9:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't see any upbeat in this picture apart from the guy in the white dress being photographed taking a photo. I can't see see any emotions or facial expressions in the women. But maybe as a westerner I am not attuned to subtler displays of upbeatness which may be indicated through other things such as body positioning etc. It would be interesting to know what aspects of the photo you feel are upbeat because I don't get it.

8:52 am  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

For one thing, I see women posing, unlike a forced posing. See the woman to the right, she has her purse on her arm and is posing upright. Then there is the woman, the second from the left with her foot out and curbed up. It is as if they all just had a good lunch together.

1:48 am  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

I meant to mention the modest one in the middle. She is holding her arm up to her chest, like she is happy, but still a little shy for the camera.

1:49 am  
Blogger m. said...

krish: how you prove a point for me! ok. havent you ever seen a face painting party for kids? they get their entire faces painted as monsters, pixies and godknowswhat. and they still stand for photographs. are they indistinguishable because they have paint all over their faces? no. is a persons entire expression, identity or personality stored in their bust or neck or face? no. the man who is taking the picture certainly doesnt think theyre one blur - he sees and appreciates the people enough to take a picture.

try throwing away all your assumptions and just try looking at the picture again. dont assume that because you consider facial expression a huge part of identity and expression, it has to be universally so. thats like saying a progressive woman HAS to wear navel baring clothes because thats the only way of expression you can think of.

and btw, your sentiment has been voiced before. the first colonisers to come here thought that all the brown skins looked alike. ive heard some indians say all the chinese look alike. its just a matter of caring enough to pay attention to the people, and not lumping them into a mass mould because it better suits you to.

anonymous: the stance of the people. ones standing with her handbag elegantly slung over her arm, the first lady is sort of shyly tucked in behind the jaunty denim bag slinger (i find especially her stance so relatable to - reminds me of schooldays!). one of them is holding the edge of her garment in a very feminine gesture, im guessing the one next to her is just beaming!
the spirit of picture would maybe be their equivalent of the western 'V' sign that people make with their fingers... you know, big grins and Vs, and probably there would be someone with a hand stuck into their jeans pocket?

chasingmoksha: hi. YES! thank you.. that too. they are posing, but theres no strained atmosphere about it as if they were trying to pout sensuously like supermodels! its a very casual posing :)

3:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite interesting that when you look in detail there are indeed subtle body language signals. I can't really read them though. A foot sticking out could be in anger, frustration, joy. But nonetheless quite eye-opening.

In general I don't object to this type of clothing at all. In fact it has many advantages. If it were culturally acceptable for me to wear the dress and head scarf bit then I probably might on occasion. It would be nice not to have to worry about your body constantly being on display and being appraised. Which is certainly the case with most western clothing even with a fairly modest jeans and t-shirt. This type of clothing offers a level of protection which definitely seems appealing.

However my major reservations are the face and eyes being covered and the fact that in most cultures where women dress like this the men do not cover up to the same extent.

7:54 am  
Blogger m. said...

anon: hi. yes, patriarchy may have manipulated local customs and modified them to suit its shitty ends.
but it is very irritating and offensive to have the west decide in a sweeping gesture, based on its limited knowledge of the culture and its prejudiced perceptions, that a whole culture is retrogressive and the people unevolved.
the point i was trying to emphasise by putting up that photograph was that different cultures employ different symbols to denote their philosophy. to ignorantly use subjective interpretation to pass judgement and call it an objective analysis, is 'orrible.

6:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the black cloaks that they are wearing are an indicator of something else: that women are invisible, anonymous and homogeneous. Else, why is it a uniform only for women? The question is whether these women want to hide their expressions/ clothes behind the veil. If it is by choice, it's one thing. If it has been imposed by them, it would be terribly unfair. In the book 'Princess' (Jean Sasson), the princess laments about having to wear a black veil and wishes for freedom from it. Maybe her thoughts are echoed by other women as well...just a thought! :-)

2:08 am  
Blogger alex said...



3:56 am  
Blogger m. said...

anonymous II: hmm, again, i think despite people having tried to use the garb for oppression these women have turned that symbolism around by expressing themselves so eloquently through the same means. i'd like to be a lot slower in making these women out to be victims. they seem pretty strong to me!

alex: hmmm? (and that's "m." please!)

9:13 pm  
Anonymous Rao said...

I am not sure m.

and so I wrote this post.

9:33 pm  

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