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Cool Story Bro by Riya Chandiramani

  • Medium:
    Acrylic on Wood with Perspex Box
  • Size: 30.5 cm (W) X 47 cm (H) X 8.9 cm (D)
  • About the piece: In Cool Story Bro, Chandiramani encourages the viewer to reflect on the subconscious messages and ideals portrayed in the mythical and religious stories imparted on us as children, and the impact these stories have on society today. Here, her intention is to shed light on the representation of women in the male-centric, male-authored Ramayana, a Hindu legend described as “one of India’s most cherished epic jewels.” There are many versions of the text, that span across cultures and languages. The first and most famous iteration is ascribed to the sage Valmiki, who aimed to teach the importance of virtue through the story.

    Unfortunately, the women represented in this story are in a lose-lose situation. The ‘good’ women are described as fair, beautiful, and completely devoted to their husbands. Their sacrifice for their husbands is correlated with their virtue – yet even these women, like the main female protagonist, are blamed for causing trouble and subject to scepticism and in her case, required to ‘prove’ her purity after being kidnapped, that she did not have sexual relations (consensual or not) with her kidnapper. On the other hand, the bad women are those that think and act for themselves, described as old and ugly, jealous, or seducers with evil intent. Not much has changed today – beauty and virtue are still ‘sold’ to us today simultaneously in the media; and victims are still ‘blamed’ and asked to prove their innocence “what were you wearing?” “but why were you walking alone?” “watch your drink”.

    Stories like this, despite positive intent, can have negative impacts. It is important to remain critical and aware that these stories were written for a reason, within specific contexts, and have passed through many mouths and hands. It is not to negate the positive lessons we can take from the story, but rather not to take everything as authority and fact.
    In the Ramayana, a divine prince (the king prayed to the Sun god for a son and received four, from three wives) and his brother are the protagonists of the story. They are banished, along with the prince’s wife, to the forest for 14 years – as the prince was about to rule, but his stepmother wanted her son to be king. In the forest, they live humbly and slay demons. One demoness, in particular, is outraged when one of the brothers cuts off her nose and ears after her attempts to seduce them. She is described as “horribly ugly, a woman of loose character.” She reports this assault to her brother, the king of another land, and advises him to kidnap the prince’s wife because she is his most prized possession so this will be the best revenge. He gets a guy to disguise himself as a gorgeous golden deer, knowing that the princess will send her husband away to retrieve it for her. After he leaves, and the brother goes looking for him, he draws a line around the house that she is not allowed to cross. Women can’t protect themselves and invite harm onto themselves, obviously. She, being a nice person, feeds a beggar that comes by the cottage, and yup, the beggar is the king in disguise ready to kidnap her. He takes her back to her land and tries to seduce her but because she is so devoted to her husband, she refuses his advances. In the meantime, the brothers befriend a monkey warrior who is their biggest devotee, and appoints himself as their helper. He flies across the ocean to the kingdom where the princess is captured, encountering obstacles on the way, and finally finds her in a garden guarded by demonesses with swine, goat, buffalo, and other animal faces. The monkey is captured, but his life is spared by the king’s brother. Instead, the king lights his tail on fire, which he uses to set the kingdom on fire, extinguishing his tail in the sea. It is said that the purity and prayers of the princess had saved him – her chastity and ‘good virtue’ had saved him – a common belief – and because of her purity and chastity, the king had not ‘dared’ touch her. Which is great, but he shouldn’t have touched her anyway. She sends her jewels back with the monkey because she knows her husband wants to rescue her, even though the monkey can literally take her back now. The prince and the army of monkeys work on building a bridge across the ocean to get her and battle ensues. The prince’s brother is hurt by a lethal arrow and the monkey flies to get a special herb that will cure him, he brings back the whole mountain in his palm. The evil king blames the princess for being the ‘root cause’ of this battle, and her own husband says that he did not come over to save her, in fact, it gives him no joy to have her back unless she satisfies him and others by passing through fire, to prove her purity, i.e. that she did not have sexual relations with the king that kidnapped her. After she left a pretty nice life to go live in a forest riddled with demons for her husband. She sits in the fire and comes out unscathed, and the husband then said that he totally believed that she was pure and innocent but that the rest of their followers wouldn’t and he didn’t want them to attack her. However, this begins a series of incidents where citizens of their country are angry and assume she was ‘polluted’ by the touch of the demon king, so she is exiled once again. Her ‘pollution’ that did not even exist, was not as important as his appearance. She goes into the forest and lives with a sage (the sage that wrote the book, ironically) and his community, and discovers she is pregnant. She gives birth to twin sons, and they are raised to learn archery and meanwhile in the kingdom, the prince – now king – builds a golden statue of his wife to accompany him to rituals and events because it’s basically the same thing right. Eventually, he finds her and their sons. Once again, she has to prove her purity. She is fed up. She tells mother earth (her actual mother) to embrace her. There is an earthquake and thunder and the earth goddess welcomed the princess back into her womb. The monkey is made immortal – he is the hero of the story, worshipped for being the best devotee. The thing is, the wife, a single mother of two boys, was also literally the best devotee, a wife dedicated fully and completely to her husband and his health and success. But she is blamed, disbelieved, and disrespected, and so she goes back into the earth that birthed her.

    If a man is writing a piece about what he thinks is right and knows a lot of people like him are going to read it, and has power to gain or maintain by virtue of being a man in a patriarchal society, then he has a lot to gain from presenting women as “virtuous” and “beautiful” by being submissive and subservient to men.

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Cool Story Bro by Riya Chandiramani

  • Medium:
    Acrylic on Wood with Perspex Box
  • Size: 30.5 cm (W) X 47 cm (H) X 8.9 cm (D)
  • About the piece: In Cool Story Bro, Chandiramani encourages the viewer to reflect on the subconscious messages and ideals portrayed in the mythical and religious stories imparted on us as children, and the impact these stories have on society today. Here, her intention is to shed light on the representation of women in the male-centric, male-authored Ramayana, a Hindu legend described as “one of India’s most cherished epic jewels.” There are many versions of the text, that span across cultures and languages. The first and most famous iteration is ascribed to the sage Valmiki, who aimed to teach the importance of virtue through the story.

    Unfortunately, the women represented in this story are in a lose-lose situation. The ‘good’ women are described as fair, beautiful, and completely devoted to their husbands. Their sacrifice for their husbands is correlated with their virtue – yet even these women, like the main female protagonist, are blamed for causing trouble and subject to scepticism and in her case, required to ‘prove’ her purity after being kidnapped, that she did not have sexual relations (consensual or not) with her kidnapper. On the other hand, the bad women are those that think and act for themselves, described as old and ugly, jealous, or seducers with evil intent. Not much has changed today – beauty and virtue are still ‘sold’ to us today simultaneously in the media; and victims are still ‘blamed’ and asked to prove their innocence “what were you wearing?” “but why were you walking alone?” “watch your drink”.

    Stories like this, despite positive intent, can have negative impacts. It is important to remain critical and aware that these stories were written for a reason, within specific contexts, and have passed through many mouths and hands. It is not to negate the positive lessons we can take from the story, but rather not to take everything as authority and fact.
    In the Ramayana, a divine prince (the king prayed to the Sun god for a son and received four, from three wives) and his brother are the protagonists of the story. They are banished, along with the prince’s wife, to the forest for 14 years – as the prince was about to rule, but his stepmother wanted her son to be king. In the forest, they live humbly and slay demons. One demoness, in particular, is outraged when one of the brothers cuts off her nose and ears after her attempts to seduce them. She is described as “horribly ugly, a woman of loose character.” She reports this assault to her brother, the king of another land, and advises him to kidnap the prince’s wife because she is his most prized possession so this will be the best revenge. He gets a guy to disguise himself as a gorgeous golden deer, knowing that the princess will send her husband away to retrieve it for her. After he leaves, and the brother goes looking for him, he draws a line around the house that she is not allowed to cross. Women can’t protect themselves and invite harm onto themselves, obviously. She, being a nice person, feeds a beggar that comes by the cottage, and yup, the beggar is the king in disguise ready to kidnap her. He takes her back to her land and tries to seduce her but because she is so devoted to her husband, she refuses his advances. In the meantime, the brothers befriend a monkey warrior who is their biggest devotee, and appoints himself as their helper. He flies across the ocean to the kingdom where the princess is captured, encountering obstacles on the way, and finally finds her in a garden guarded by demonesses with swine, goat, buffalo, and other animal faces. The monkey is captured, but his life is spared by the king’s brother. Instead, the king lights his tail on fire, which he uses to set the kingdom on fire, extinguishing his tail in the sea. It is said that the purity and prayers of the princess had saved him – her chastity and ‘good virtue’ had saved him – a common belief – and because of her purity and chastity, the king had not ‘dared’ touch her. Which is great, but he shouldn’t have touched her anyway. She sends her jewels back with the monkey because she knows her husband wants to rescue her, even though the monkey can literally take her back now. The prince and the army of monkeys work on building a bridge across the ocean to get her and battle ensues. The prince’s brother is hurt by a lethal arrow and the monkey flies to get a special herb that will cure him, he brings back the whole mountain in his palm. The evil king blames the princess for being the ‘root cause’ of this battle, and her own husband says that he did not come over to save her, in fact, it gives him no joy to have her back unless she satisfies him and others by passing through fire, to prove her purity, i.e. that she did not have sexual relations with the king that kidnapped her. After she left a pretty nice life to go live in a forest riddled with demons for her husband. She sits in the fire and comes out unscathed, and the husband then said that he totally believed that she was pure and innocent but that the rest of their followers wouldn’t and he didn’t want them to attack her. However, this begins a series of incidents where citizens of their country are angry and assume she was ‘polluted’ by the touch of the demon king, so she is exiled once again. Her ‘pollution’ that did not even exist, was not as important as his appearance. She goes into the forest and lives with a sage (the sage that wrote the book, ironically) and his community, and discovers she is pregnant. She gives birth to twin sons, and they are raised to learn archery and meanwhile in the kingdom, the prince – now king – builds a golden statue of his wife to accompany him to rituals and events because it’s basically the same thing right. Eventually, he finds her and their sons. Once again, she has to prove her purity. She is fed up. She tells mother earth (her actual mother) to embrace her. There is an earthquake and thunder and the earth goddess welcomed the princess back into her womb. The monkey is made immortal – he is the hero of the story, worshipped for being the best devotee. The thing is, the wife, a single mother of two boys, was also literally the best devotee, a wife dedicated fully and completely to her husband and his health and success. But she is blamed, disbelieved, and disrespected, and so she goes back into the earth that birthed her.

    If a man is writing a piece about what he thinks is right and knows a lot of people like him are going to read it, and has power to gain or maintain by virtue of being a man in a patriarchal society, then he has a lot to gain from presenting women as “virtuous” and “beautiful” by being submissive and subservient to men.

FREE HK DELIVERY

BOOK A VIEWING APPOINTMENT

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY

payment secure

framing services