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Lavanya Bahuguna


Artists Who Recreated Hindu Gods With Dark Skin Tell Us Why Skin Discrimination Is Not Fair

  • IWB Post
  •  January 9, 2018

While we eagerly wait for beauty brands to stop advertising ‘fair is lovely,’ there are people like Bharadwaj Sundar, Nithya Karneeswaran, and Naresh Nil who are setting the right examples in society through their project.

“Thanks to ‘unfair’ advertising that we have been witnessing for years on our Indian television screens, most of us believe that someone with a fair skin tone is prettier than the one with brown or black skin. To bring a small change in our own way, we recreated some famous pictures of Indian Gods and Goddesses in a hope to challenge the mindset regarding dark skin,” the Chennai-based artists remarked.


Read the excerpts from our conversation with photographer Naresh Nil sharing details of this stunning photo series.

First thing first, introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m a fashion, travel and food photographer. I started making money through my artwork while I was still in college. Growing up in the southern part of India, I saw women obsessing over fair skin and using all kinds of nonsense beauty products. Obviously, I generated the same viewpoint until I got the much-needed exposure in college. As an art student, you cannot learn anything with a close-mind or narrow perception about things that are au naturale.


How did the idea to dress dark-skinned men and women as Gods and Goddesses appear?

It was Bharadwaj Sundar who put forward the thought. We discussed how, after colonization, Indians have started worshipping fair skin and consider it superior. We talked about its ill-effects, like insecurity and lack of confidence that develop in an individual. Once everyone from the art director to the makeup artist understood the mission of the project, all of us were on-board.

To start the project, we put the money from our pockets. From costumes to creating aesthetically rich backgrounds, we did everything on our own.


What did you learn during the project?

A funny fact that how, even though most of our divine powers are dark in colour, like Lord Krishna and Goddess Kali, we still choose to paint them in whiter tones on posters and as statues.


Do you think the educational system has a role to play in building this kind of mindset?

Definitely, but more than that it is our family that carelessly teaches us to differentiate between various kinds of skin colours and body types. As a guardian, if you see a boy or girl who is fat or dark, tell them that they are beautiful. If you don’t do so, you’re only nurturing an individual who will probably start degrading one part of his/her culture. With this project, we’re telling our viewer that dark is divine, too, just like fair.


Was finding dark-skinned models a task?

We posted on our social media pages that we were looking for such people, irrespective of the gender. We received many entries after which we conducted auditions to finalize the roles for each one of them. Depending on one’s expression and personality, we selected Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, and other male Gods.

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What kind of response are you receiving?

Reading so many messages from around India is heart-warming. This one lady, after coming across our photo series, wrote to us that the skin she once considered her weakness is now her strength.

Image source: Naresh Nil Photography

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