Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs (2000-2004)
Pushpamala N. in collaboration with Clare Arni
Originally, this project imagined the setting up of a fantasy photo studio — the old fashioned sort of portrait studio with painted sets and props which sometimes provided its customers with costumes.
In this setting, we would explore and rethink popular images of south Indian women by recreating well known images in the genre of photo-performance, while deconstructing them in various ways.
The result was Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs, consisting of four series of images and exhibited in its entirety as an installation based on the concept of a film or theatre museum. There were more than 250 photographs in four series, shown with the painted backdrops, curtains, props and costumes.
All the photographs have been taken on negative film and each series represents a different genre of photography.
Describing the work, the Indian scholar and women’s rights activist Susie Tharu said: “Goddesses, political satire, film stills, calendar icons, votive and high art images, anthropometrical and ethnographic records, news and documentary photographs and a host of other images and image formats are cited and wittily cross-fertilized. The artists create a virtual population explosion that mimics the mood, energy and genius of the visual vernacular in contemporary India.”