Ms. Basanti Timalsina
DescriptionThis session explores the concept of colorism in India through a rhetorical lens by examining the representation of skin tone in Indian religious and social contexts. It analyzes the 2017 photo series titled ‘Dark is Divine’ created by Naresh Nil, an Indian photographer and Bharadwaj Sundar, an Indian filmmaker, which reimagines the representation of Hindu gods and goddesses in a strikingly darker skin tone. Typically, these deities are represented as having lighter skin tones. India is a South Asian country with a Hindu majority and the skin tone composition mostly comprises brown, dark brown, or black. In contrast, the representation of gods and goddesses in different common visual media such as calendar art, postcards, TV, and film, most often appears exceptionally white. The project was created to counter the representation of fair-skinned deities but is also trying to promote acceptance and appreciation of dark skin and to raise awareness and spark conversation about intraracial colorism in India. The project illustrates seven photographs in which dark-skinned Indian models pose as Hindu deities in costumes in a staged setting in a studio. Analyzing the photo series from a rhetorical perspective illuminates the implications of activist efforts within the multimedia digital artwork. Furthermore, it calls attention to larger social concerns surrounding the interplay and intersection between media representation, religion, gendered discourses, racism, and colorism in a transnational context.