Defining the Indian Rapunzel

Defining the Indian Rapunzel

Hairy tale

Defining the Indian Rapunzel

From plaited to open, this hairy tale has it all! Shot in different places - Cochin, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Orissa, all the photographs of women are connected by a common thread - their long hair.

Titled ‘Something about hair’ by Oriane Zerah, a French journalist, the exhibit (which is on till June 1 at the Alliance Française) is so unusual in thought and execution that it leaves visitors spellbound. The 51 pictures capture different aspects of a woman’s long hair.  

Inspired by Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali, horse hair (when in movement) and the suspended roots of banyan trees, photographer Oriane shares that when she first went to Kerala, the smell of coconut oil filled her nostrils. It didn’t take her long to realise that the smell emanated from the hair of women. She was fascinated by the long hair but the thought of capturing their beauty, came to her only when she went to Afghanistan and realised that women there covered their heads with scarves.

Back in India, she asked women from different parts of the country to pose for her. “I knew the importance of white and red colour in the Indian culture and thus asked my models to sport them accordingly,” shares Oriane. She directed her models to wear white so that their “hair could take the shape of their bodies by becoming their dress,” and used red to depict blood and ferocity. 
What captures one’s attention is the use of coloured, glass bangles used by these models. While she directed the women from Jaisalmer to endorse red bangles, those from Jodhpur wore blue bangles for her. 
Oriane recollects that when she asked a 55-year old woman in Jaisalmer to hold a knife and pose with her hair open, “she was taken aback but after seeing the final picture, she started laughing!” The inspiration behind Oriane’s thought was Goddess Kali. 

The most beautiful of the lot are the ones where a young girl wears blue bangles. “Since Jopdhpur is referred to as the blue City, I asked her to wear blue bangles.” To a visitor, the two pictures symbolise a modern college-going girl in love with her long hair and who loves coloured bangles but to the artist, “The girl looks like a bird of paradise!”

Then there is a woman’s hand which touches a tiger’s photo. “I wanted to show that a woman’s hair are as strong as a tiger is,” Oriane explains adding that her main motive was to show that when viewed from behind, the hair of each woman falls differently.

Even though all photographs are taken from the back, the photographer has been successful in capturing and expressing her models’ moods. 

But Oriane refrains from giving a names to the works because, “If you give a name to a photo, you miss the idea of what it is capable of evoking.” Point noted!