Art and ResponsibilitySome critics have said that making my movie "as a white, American woman" I have a "responsibility" to locate the work within a history of colonialist oppression account for my white privilege bla bla bla zzzzz. Yes, it's White Man's Burden all over again. So I'd like to get clear on what an artist's responsibility is:
An artist's responsibility is to be true to their own vision.
In other words, to be honest. That's it.
Ironically, but not surprisingly, similarly well-intentioned guardians of culture are also trying to dictate Indian artists' responsibility. I recently received a very nice email from an artist studying in Mumbai, who wrote
There is a great deal of emphasis here of being true to our Indian roots and integrating that Indian-ness into our work here. honestly I'm a little tired of it.
I saw the same thing when I taught animation in Nairobi. UNESCO, who sponsored the program, wanted the partcipants to create animation that was "authentically African." My feeling was that anything they made would be authentically African, because they were authentic Africans. But UNESCO wanted their work to "look African", be based on traditional folklore, set in rural villages, etc. All this in 2004, in a big city, working on computers - many of the participants were understandably looking away from rural villages and towards the rest of the world. That's what artists do, and it's just as authentic as looking at your roots.
It's great when an artist's vision dovetails with an honorable social cause, and is naturally politically correct. I'm as eager to see homegrown Indian animation about Indian history and folklore as anyone. I'm also eager to see Indian, African, rest-of-the-world-ian animation about every other conceiveable subject - as long as it's honest. My Mumbai penpal articulated it well:
I share your opinion about the integration of identity in our work through honesty of thought. It also ensures the fact that the end result is truer to the context than the other more contrived one.
Meanwhile, I try to remember this:
...forgive us our criticisms
As we forgive those who critique against us
Excellent post. Better an authentic 'internationality' than a contrived 'nationality', I always thought. Besides why hem yourself within borders? ;-)
I think you are completely right. A person should show the world as they themselves see it. If one keeps trying to represent a population, a history, a culture, somebody is going to get their toes stepped on and say they weren't portrayed properly. So, if a kid colors a sky purple and the grass blue, who's to say the kid is wrong. Why not have fun with your own perspectives.
By the way, I just watched part of Sitayana and absolutely loved it. I can't tell you how awesome it was to be hearing old jazz songs in an animation. Kudos chica and keep up the amazing work! :)
I love this post. It reminds me of a monologue I wrote in college called "white heterosexual male". And that was in 1993. It's inspiring hear you confront these burdens and critisms that are distractions from the truth. Keep calling it like you see it. I'm right there with you.
Right on, Nina! I've been an admirer of your work for a long time. Don't listen to these whiny race-obsessed fools - they are stuck in another era. All they can scream is racism, blah blah blah - well, this is 2007, and it doesn't exist to the same extent anymore. These whiny women need to get over themselves. You don't need to heed attention to them. (Not to mention that they hate America!) Keep on with your awesome art!
Why should we allow these multiculturalist racists to force any one of us into their boxes? Its not enough to create something beautiful and real, for them the value is only in what it "represents" in their postmodernist story, and if your creation doesn't jibe with their prejudices, then it's "wrong," and double plus ungood.
Worse, they want to take our tax money to pay for art that they think is "good," and agrees with their ideas, whether or not it actually sings to the human condition or not.
If it pisses them off, it's art.
Nina, well said. I really appreciate what you are doing in reinterpreting the Ramayana. I am an Indian woman living in diaspora, and can certainly attest to the "authentic Indian" fiction that underlies the Indian-American community's rhetoric.
I'd like to provide you with another forum to express your views and perhaps bring them to a local/ Cincinnati/Columbus/Northern Kentucky audience.
I'm the co-director of a gender-based magazine called The Rag, and we'd like to publish either one of your cartoon strips dealing with gender, and show clips from Sitayana, with an excerpt from your artist's statement.
The issue is coming out in about 3 weeks, May 1st. So, please get back to me as soon as possible about this proposal.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
I love your work.
I've often wondered: What is the statute of limitations on cultural/historical responsibility? At what point does one no longer have to somehow own up to the actions of ancestors from millenia past? Must I, as an American, be responsible for the actions of colonial-era Americans when my own ancestors didn't arrive here until the late 1800's and early 1900's? Must a 15 yr. old German kid who likes Xbox and Hip-Hop be culturally responsible for the atrocities of the Holocaust? I wouldn't think so.
So why should Nina be held accountable for the colonial oppression of a buncha old dead white English guys?
Thanks for letting me rant, Nina. (I would like to point out that I'm [obviously] not educated or well-versed in the subject; I just draw cartoons.)
Yeah, I see all women as sex objects. So I will show them all as naked whores sucking *****. No one is objecting to your freedom to create something beautiful and put it inside your home for your personal enjoyment. When you create an artwork and display it in a public place like a website, you are bound by National Laws, as also by considerations of people's cultures and what is acceptable to them in their culture. Just because the dirty American culture allows naked dancing in Public, it does not mean all 198 or so Nations of this world should undress and start dancing in the nude, especially when you are depicting something very connected to the culture of any particular country. And please dont act as if you are being oppressed and opposed and you are one brave woman putting up with all social pressure etc etc. You are just a bitch, doing it for your own personal publicity. If you have the right to create something beautiful w.r.t. your personal perceptions while it is downright demeaning to some social group, then that social group has the right to protest against you and use their right to freedom of speech against you too. Nina, bitches like you who hurt people of a culture as ancient as Vedic culture for imposing your own arrogance can never find peace and rest in your life. You will definitely suffer downfall in your life. You will not die a peaceful death mind you. You will die a lonely terrible death. You will be an emotional wreck.
One more thing is, dont misguide people here by quoting false musings of some perverted Indian artists. A majority of Indian artists are still Spiitually motivated. Dont try to create an impression that the whole of India is full of Religious zealots and Indian artists have to please them against their wishes to make paintings adhering to Indian culture. As if a majority of Indian artists dont respect Indian culture and are looking forward to create works of art humiliating and demeaning to Hindu Culture! What an imagination! Look at the paintings of Raja Raviverma. Look at the respect he has! It is just that people who create really beautiful art are respected and people who are not worthy of respect are criticized. Why do you want your dirty works to be respected by all ? If I dont feel respect for your works, that is my personal opinion and lookout. Yet you write big posts protesting why your ass-worthy art works are not being respected because you are a woman and cover all so-called womanly issues!
Next day some American dude will draw his own perverted version of Krishnayana where he will show Satyabhama, Krishna's wife selling him off to a Brahmin as her most prized pocession and Lord Krishna serving in the house of the brahmin for a year as his servant because his beloved wife sold him off to him. Dont remember or know of this incident? Maybe not, because the feminists want to create some "issues" for women just to give an impression that they are doing something worthwhile for them, ignore this incident and put the blame for all atrocities on women upon Hindu culture.
A cheap sexist way of acquiring publicity and getting over your personal emotions. Even if there was a man in your place, there would have been the same reaction. Look at the old fag, MF Husain, today he cannot come back to India. The reason ? People look so down upon him! They protest wherever he goes. And the media says this is the work of Hindu Zealots! haha! This is the demonstration of the common man. Unfortunately, the media puts the blame upon "Hindu Nationalists"! When 37000 signatures online have been recorded against MF Husain, more than 8000 public petitions with more than 10 lakh hardcopy signatures have been submitted to President of India, and 3500 police complaints have been registered against him in all parts of India, despite the fact that court has already issued arrest warrant against him, despite the fact that people in Indian villages have shutdown shops and stores as demand for his arrest, the media still feels this is the work of Hindu zealots!
What about that Korean guy who went on a killing spree in the campus? Was it not his personal right to shoot at people? Was he influenced by some terrorist group ? Was he influenced by Osama or Saddam ? In the US guns are sold for profit! Just accept the fact that anything hurting any particular group in the society is not acceptable and not all people protesting are zealots or influenced by zealots like Taliban! You call protesting Hindus as Taliban, what are you ? An arrogant American who is sure US army will defend her and kill anyone who goes against her just like they killed thousands in Iraq ? Or maybe throw destructive nuclear weapons (3000 or something) to protect you ? What are you ? I can very well say you are influenced by the destructive American psyche of global supremacy and want to show your white racial superiority over the causasian Indians (browns). That is why you dont respect their culture!
Ultimately, you are just a little cunt, prying for some cheap publiciity.
Satyabhama was a dominant egoistical wife. Lord Krishna had to use subtle techniques to reduce her ego and make a devotee of her. He could have crushed her ego by displaying his almighty form like he did to Arjuna and Bheeshma. Well said Gurudev, why feminists, even commoners and so called woman portrayers forget this happening in the Mahabharat.
Similarly, people forget that while the Chaste Seeta along with all her passivity is the ideal for a woman, this is only inrelation to Lord Rama who was the most ideal ekpatnivrati. Ekpatnivrat is not just physically marrying one woman, but also not thinking of women other than one's wife sexually. This is very difficult and is the ideal for men. If the man's ideal of Rama does not hold good in a marriage, then Seeta's ideal too does not hold good. There are several people in the Vedic land of Bharat who follow ekpatnivrat to this day, so also are there devout wives who consider their husbands as their Gods. Go to holy places like Nrusimha Wadi in Maharashtra, Sri Shaila, Kashi Vishwanath considered as the abode of Shiva and you will find the imperishable Vedic Dharma alive there even today. The same Vedic mantras, which were chanted 5000 years ago, are chanted there even today. Even today you will find there chaste couples free from blemishes of sexism, ego and anti-dharmic activities.
Just because a few so called Hindus who have left their land Bharat, their Hindu identity, and shame and poke their runny noses on this blog it does not mean the 800 million masses living in villages of Spiritual Vedic Bharat think and feel similarly.
View the common Mumbaikar's opinion about M F Husain in the Mumbai Mirror.
This will tell you what the common man feels and not what the media shows it to be. Powerful network of Aware citizens and Media like Internet are enough to dispel myths propagated by Capitalist newspapers like the Times of India.
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