Holy Daughters

Drawing parallels between the cow, sacred animal and symbol of fertility in India, and the depreciated condition of women, Prune Nourry creates hybrid sculptures between a sacred cow and a girl: the Holy Daughters. For the performative aspect of the project, resin Holy Daughters sculptures were placed in the streets of New Delhi in September 2010. Bronze sculptures of similar design were included in international exhibitions.


Asia has become the most masculine continent in the world. India, in particular, indicates a continuing preference for boys in society. According to the country’s provisional 2011 Census report released in March 2011, the child sex ratio in India dropped to 914 females for every 1,000 males – the lowest since Independence. This phenomenon is partly due to the appearance in the 1980s of ultrasounds, which resulted in countless sex-selective abortions to the detriment of girls, leading ultimately to such dramatic consequences on the feminine condition as the purchase of women for marriage, abduction of girls, and an increase in rates of prostitution and polyandry.

On the brink of the 2011 Census in India, Prune Nourry invited the Indian public to discover her sculptures, the Holy Daughters, which raise the question of the sex ratio’s imbalance to the detriment of girls in India. Drawing a parallel between the holy cow and women, the Holy Daughters raise the question of sex-selective abortion. The cow, symbol of fertility due to its milk, is respected in Indian society, whereas the girl, vector of fertility as she may give birth one day, is still considered a burden. Through her sculptures, Prune suggests that, just like the sacred cows, daughters are holy.

During a three-day happening in the streets of New Delhi, Nourry displayed three sculptures in different parts of the city. The Holy Daughters, created in two different positions—one standing and one squatting— were abandoned in places frequented by the Indian middle class as the social class most affected by the sex selection phenomenon. The artist documented the reactions, in photos and videos, of the passer-bys who physically faced this complex issue of Indian society.

Nourry gave a talk in Paris at the Musée du Quai Branly, on June 10th, on the topic of sex selection in India. A second talk took place in Delhi, on September 16th, 2010, at the India Habitat Center, with sociologist Ravinder Kaur. A first Holy Daughters exhibition was held in Paris in January 2011. The show, curated by Tatyana Franck, then travelled to Berlin and Geneva, and included works documenting and inspired by the performance Holy Daughters in New Delhi.



Holy Daughters performance, New Delhi, India, 2010