Holy Holi

In a "goshala" (shelter for sick or abandoned cows), Prune Nourry recreates the Holi festival, an Indian celebration of fertility in which the streets are strewn with thousands of color pigments. Paradoxically, the festival is an ordeal for women, who each year suffer the excesses committed by men.
For the Holy Holi, performance, young girls from nearby villages, fed with milk from the goshala's cows, reappropriate the celebration of fertility by using liquid and powder milk.


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.

Prune Nourry’s series of sculpture, video, and performance works, Holy Daughters, raises this issue of sex selection in India. In 2010, before the recent census results were even released, Nourry created her first set of Holy Daughters sculptures and installed them publicly in the streets of New Delhi. Hybrids between India’s sacred cows and adolescent girls, the Holy Daughters sculptures blur the line between the venerated symbol of fertility (the cow) and the culturally undesired vector of fertility (the girl). In the performance Holy Holi, another part of the Holy Daughters series, Nourry assembled a dozen local girls at a Gaushala, or home for abandoned or sick cows, during Holi festival celebrating fertility and springtime in Delhi, in the course of which people throw and cover themselves in pigments and colored water. Though women usually remain on the sidelines of the celebration of Holi, since it is an occasion for men to get drunk in the streets, in Nourry’s interpretation of the festivities, little girls dressed in white robes hurl handfuls and splash themselves with milk, a symbol of fertility.




Holy Holi performance, New Delhi, India, 2010