Misconceptions… or latent racism!

January 6, 2011 by Padma Rao   Comments (2)

The resident artists group at Sanskriti is as diverse as it can get. It’s international.  Over the past week I’d observed that one of resident artists has been making derogatory comments about various aspects of India, such as the caste system, the language, female oppression, traditions which I found deeply unsettling and frankly, offensive.  There came a point that this was beginning to affect the group dynamics and this morning I decided to confront it.  I took her to one side and told her that I found some of her comments about the Indian culture and people offensive. I asked her what she meant by some of her comments?  Realising the impact of her comments, she apologised and regretted that her comments had caused such upset.  She thanked me for bringing this up with her.  She agreed that much of her perceptions were driven by some old books that she had been reading about India.  In other words, not only she was suggesting that the books were her reference points but also shifting the responsibility for her actions. 


 We had a good open conversation. I told her that India is just as developed as anywhere else and suggested that she should take a more open look.  The juxtaposition of modern and traditional will always be there and it’s worth taking a look at how people of India negotiate these in their daily lives.  Centuries of traditions, religion, rituals, faith, cultural habits permeate the lives of Indians with seamless boundaries.  A piece of artistic expression can just as well be a religious experience in its finest sense, a small religious act can just as well be a form of cultural expression. These complexities and the way they are juggled, make Indians one of the most resilient, adaptable, diverse and flexible people around. There are extremes and I am not making a generalist statement.


We parted with a hug, she thanked me again for bringing it to her attention and giving her an opportunity to reflect on her behaviour.  I later learnt that she went and apologized to the other resident Indian artist about her comments.    




Well done! Its so much better to TALK with someone; to give them an opportunity to understand the effects they're having and to perhaps make amends rather than to seethe (as I confess I do too often) or to confront them (again; I can be guilty of that one). Hopefully the person you mentioned will look more deeply into a culture, or; better still; attempt to really engage with people who live it, before making future value judgements.

Oscar Watson 1197 days ago

Thanks Oscar. It's surprising how sometimes people can be blind to their behaviours and opinions despite visiting a country more than five times, as was in this artist's case. 

Padma Rao 1196 days ago