The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own

by BHARTI KHER

In The skin speaks a language not its own Bharti Kher critically engages with the role of popular culture and imagery in contemporary Indian art by using the bindi and the white elephant as potent symbolic metaphors.

The term bindi is derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for a dot or a point, and also carries the meaning of the numeral zero. It is traditionally a mark of pigment applied to the forehead and is associated with the Hindu symbol of the ‘third eye’. In recent times, bindi have become commercially manufactured and decorative items. Kher uses the bindi as a means of transforming objects and surfaces, and to inflect her art with a range of meanings and connotations from various historical and contemporary periods.

In Buddhism the white elephant is associated with wisdom and with royalty and features in processions and ceremonies across South and South-East Asia. In India, the important and popular Hindu deity Ganesha is shown with an elephant’s head. In The skin speaks a language not its own, Kher uses the symbolism of a dying elephant as a means to contemplate the potentially destructive effects of popular culture, mass media and consumerism on the culture of India.

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