Illustration based on The Queen’s Necklace, an Indian tale.
“Le cortège de Dalim Kumar […] arriva au palais; et le roi et la reine Suo allèrent à la rencontre de leur fils perdu depuis si longtemps. Inutile de dire à quel point leur joie était intense. Ils tombèrent dans les bras les uns des autres et se mirent à pleurer.”
For quite some time now, my favorite painting has been “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli. This is a classic western painting that has become symbolic of ideal beauty in the art world & in pop culture. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see the actual painting in Florence, and ever since I was curious to create my own “desi remix”. Recently, there’s been a lot of conversations about westerners “borrowing” eastern cultures, so I thought why not “easternize” a classic western painting? A lot of my work has a heavy indian influence, so for inspiration I started looking through all my old indian story books. India has such a rich history of story telling, the art of epics & folk tales has become the base of our culture. This is why I wanted my translation to be connected to a tale most indians would recognize.
In my research, I came across a painting by Raja Ravi Varma depicting king Shantanu and his queen, Satyavati from the Mahabharata. Satyavati was the daughter of a fisherman, a commoner who made a living helping her father fish. It was said that people always noted the stench of fish exuding from her body. She was known for this stench until she met a priest who exchanged her foul smell for one so fragrant it made her smell alluring from far away (which is what lead king Shantanu to her). Similar to the original Birth of Venus, there is a question of what we consider beautiful. Satyavati was a commoner but was beautiful enough for a king. Whether by her smell, looks, physical or internal beauty, beauty is more than just godly or divine, which classic paintings have traditionally lead us to believe. In light of beauty in south asian culture today, there has been much talk about sexuality and breaking free from the stereotypical image of south asian women being shy and obedient by instead showing beauty in the strength of a woman’s actions and not being ashamed of her body. Physical beauty has typically been something that is celebrated in western art, but it’s something we shy away from especially in south asian culture. This is why I want the viewer not only to see the visual depiction of Satyavati’s story but to see power in all aspects of Satyavati’s being: the ugliness of her now beautiful stench, her humble beginnings and background as a working woman, her body in both the physical and spiritual sense, internal and external self, and her allure as a woman.
It’s funny how throughout time we keep trying to define beauty and place parameters on something that is ever changing and unbound. It truly is in the eye of the beholder.
I really like lemon meringue pie & tiramisu but I haven’t had those in a while bc dairy & eggs. Dutch apple pie is also really good (when homemade, store bought always have nasty hard apple bits) & warm brownies + ice cream ofc
tangelo: if you could be any mythical creature, which would you be?
hmm sirens or amazon queens are so rad but I’m not tough enough to be one, so maybe I’d be one of the cows from the Indian tales bc calfs are cute.
star fruit: favorite sea creature?
idk maybe turtles?? or those colourful tropical fish that look fake but aren’t