A project that delved into self-actualisation through theology and the importance representation has on one’s identity. Kali Devi is generally identified as the ‘demon goddess’ in Hindu mythology. When Durga Devi pushes into her rage, she transforms in Kali. Kali, with her flowing hair, black skin, and bloodshot eyes is the opposite of the graceful beauty of Durga. ‘Kali’ means ‘black’, her is skin black, hair is black, her priests wear black, she represents the darkness of humans and the cosmos, the side of each person one tries to suppress and forces each person confront their vices with a hint of ‘Bhaya’ or fear. Due to the inadvertent problem of colourism within the Indian society, the modern representation of Kali is shown with blue skin. This project tries to delve into the idea of ‘correct’ representation for Kali. The sexual liberation she represents in the Vedic stories with Shiva is erased in order to make the idea of ‘God’ pristine in society. Why is it that sex is seen as something unholy? I was bullied during school for my dark skin, was called ‘Kali’ on numerous occasions, I took it with pride because I chose to look at it as a comparison to a goddess. I choose to live my life in the most extreme and unapologetic manner just as Kali is represented in mythology. She speaks without fear of others and exists within the forests with the wild beasts.
“My hair flows with red ribbons of undone braids. My nails, first two broken for my own pleasure. My breasts flow freely in a garment that showcases my best features. My skin is blue, like the artists who paint Kali with their own biases, yet my feet are brown, my real skin shows through the paint because, despite all efforts to cover my body, the real skin chooses to come forward.”
I want to tread the waters and experience human life with the same intensity as her in the stories. Kali isn’t just a word, is a way of being, with no fear for others or for your own vices. To live with acceptance of the good and bad in life.
Photography and Makeup Direction: Laura Bretnall
Fashion Designer and Stylist: Joe Harris
Filmmaker and Creative Assistant: Lucy Gordonsmith
Shoot Day Assistant: Minh Nguyen
Research, Prop-making and Modelling: Maithreyee Arun
Reference: Book of Kali by Seema Mohanty
Watch the making of Kali by Lucy