If Argentine artists Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini suspected that their artworks in an exhibition series called “Barbie – The Plastic Religion,” would stoke controversy among religious communities worldwide, this week it would appear that they have overwhelmingly been proved right.
In their exhibition in Buenos Aires, which is set to open on October 11, the artists will present a variety of avatars of the famous, shapely children’s doll, Barbie, and her male companion Ken, including one in the form of the Hindu goddess Kali holding up a severed head.
Reacting to the upcoming exhibition Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric and notable interfaith leader who has led a prayer in the U.S. Senate said, “Hindus welcome the art world to immerse in Hinduism but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for personal agendas. Barbie-fication of Kali is simply improper, wrong and out of place.”
Similarly the depiction of Barbie and Ken as the Virgin Mary and a crucified Jesus Christ and other saints drew sharp comments from, among others, SIR, an Italian website backed by the Italian bishops conference, which denounced the controversial toys in an editorial asking, “What is the difference between provocation and bad taste?”
Yet the artists did appear to show restraint in some of their religious-plastic portrayals, and admitted that they “decided against creating a Ken doll as Islam’s Prophet Muhammad… out of their great respect for Islam but stressed they did not intend to offend any religion”.
A photograph of the ostensible “Kali-Barbie” on the artists’ website shows it in a box with symbol of Om and “Jai Kali Ma” in Hindi printed on it.
Commenting on this Mr. Zed said, “Goddess Kali, who personifies Shakti or divine energy and considered the goddess of time and change, is widely worshipped in Hinduism. Hindus are for free speech as much as anybody else… But faith is something sacred and attempts at belittling it hurt the devotees.”