Holy Daughters Vs. Cash Cows: Issues In India

Gallery openings can often be unusual affairs. A chance to impress and also address certain issues, artists employ a range of tactics to get their point across, whether it be through performance, video or other techniques. Despite attending many gallery openings in my time, Prune Nourry’s private view for her current show at Henrik Springmann Galerie, “Holy Daughters,” was definitely the first I have attended with a “Milk Bar.” Manned by women wearing surgical garb including hats and masks, the Milk Bar provided visitors with various flavored milk drinks in glass bottles. Also on hand were (delicious) nipple shaped patisseries. No this wasn’t someone with a bizarre fetish; milk was one of, if not the main focuses of the show, which dealt primarily with sex selection in India.

Milk Bar Prune NourryOne of Prune Nourry’s “Milk Bar” assistants at the “Holy Daughters” opening. Photo: Chris Phillips

Based on a three year project which Nourry conducted from 2009 to 2011, the exhibition documented the street performances, installations, sculptures, photography and videos which Nourry used to explore the issue of gender imbalance in India. Focusing on the fact that cows are revered as a holy deity and symbols of fertility yet young girls are shunned by society and many female fetuses are routinely aborted, Nourry created a hybrid of the two – “Holy Daughters.” Cast in bronze, these Goddesses created by the artist are striking.

Half Cow, Half Woman 

Featuring the head of a cow yet the body of a young woman mixed with that of the animal, one of the pieces crouches subserviently, eyes beseechingly looking up from the ground where it is cowering. The other of the figures stands in an elegant, unassuming manner, propped against a wall also looking a little startled. These statues were placed on streets in New Dehli and the reactions of passers were recorded, documenting a range of emotions from young girls tittering to elderly men suspiciously glaring. These videos are played in one of the three rooms of the exhibition, accompanied by one of the Holy Daughter statues, which stands silently observing the space.  

| Continued on Page 2 |