Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Holi?

I had mixed feelings about the Festival of Colors the day of, but I think I've come to terms with it now.

On one hand, we have
(1) dumb kids mindlessly taking part of an actually meaningful religious ritual, who don't care to/bother to really understand, thereby appreciate, thereby respect this different culture.
(2) another example of Western appropriation/romanticization/orientalism of an Eastern tradition (I think I saw "cultural rape" or another phrase akin to it used to describe this at some point)

But then again, consider that
(1) the whole idea behind Holi to begin with is carnival-esque in that it's all about stripping social distinction and forgetting imposed "rules" like that, so not following the "rules" and just throwing powder at everyone willy-nilly is in line with the spirit of Holi
(2) the founders of the Spanish Fork Hare Krishna temple, Caru Das Adhikary and his wife, are white and from California (at least most recently before they came to Utah), so how culturally authentic is this Holi anyway?

However, at one point the emcee? moderator? leader? the guy with the mic directing the color-throwing did make a comment about how yes, this is a great, colorful, fun event that photographers LOVE and get tons of cool pictures from, but he wanted to remind us that thereis deeper significance behind it all.

But let's be honest.

Most of the people were only there to take fun pictures. They were only there because it's fun to throw powder at people and to get powder thrown at you. They were only there for mindless senseless fun. The VAST majority, I would say were like this. Plus I saw a total of 4.5 brown (read: non-white, non-Mormon) people at Holi: 4.5 people who were actually culturally entitled to be part of the festival. I suppose most of the other tens of thousands who were there were content with being ignorant to the cultural richness behind it all.

So I guess I'm still torn after all.

Although I did, incidentally, get some cool pictures. Don't judge me please.

Was this just nonsensical rambling to you? Have any comments or criticisms?


Tracy said...

I know what you mean and I felt the same way when I went last year. But I think you make a mistake assuming that just because someone is white they are being culturally insensitive and someone is not white they are automatically in tune with a non-western tradition. I've seen evidence of the opposite of both of these assumptions in my life.

Although I wish I were different: I love Indian culture and watch Indian movies and eat Indian food, I doubt I was a pure celebrator when I went to Holi fest. Watching Water really taught me how to see the pure beauty of it though. So I agree with what you're saying, but like to assume the best.

Amy said...

Tracy, you're absolutely right-- those are assumptions I shouldn't be making. Thanks for pointing that out!

Joel Deehr said...

Without us provo kids they wouldnt even have a cool festival. They NEED us!

monica said...

well i say, sometimes its okay to just do something for fun and not know the meaning of it. as long as they arent disrespecting the festival why not just go and take pics and have fun with all that color. where else could you do something like it.

but i know what you mean about it being a tad annoying.

BtR said...

it's a fine line to walk. to celebrate and indulge in the fun that is throwing colored chalk at each other but to remember this has meaning to other cultures. i think of the mass of people that show up there as a group of toddlers. for the most part, they will do what they are told but their sense of tact is not fully developed. they know that you are telling them the story and meaning behind this religious ritual, but in all reality they are tuning you out just waiting to throw chalk in other toddlers faces. just let the toddlers have their fun and do your best to teach them. the rest is up to them

Rebecca said...

You articulated my concerns as well.