Rihanna and her brand Savage Fenty were slammed last week for appropriating Hindu culture, after many of her followers deemed two photoshoots disrespectful to the Hindu community.
The sensual photo posted to the singer’s social media accounts caused quite the controversy online.
The R&B music mogul posed topless while wearing a pair of lavender colored boxers, and it wasn’t long before her followers pointed towards something offensive about the photo.
Among the jewelry adorning Rihanna’s body, was a pendant of the Hindu God Ganesha boldly standing out and dangling in front of the singer’s stomach.
Ganesha is the elephant-headed God of beginnings, and is a highly regarded deity worshipped by millions of Hindu’s across the globe.
Many flocked to her comment section to let her know that this was unacceptable and disrespectful, which Rihanna has yet to respond to.
The incident comes just weeks after Rihanna tweeted using her platform to bring attention to the Farmers Protests, which left many right-wing Hindu nationalists already unhappy with her expression of solidarity with the movement.
As a result Indian media are spreading misinformation against Rihanna, going as far as to say that she and climate activist Greta Thunberg have colluded together to create trouble in India.
Consequently, this week’s photoshoots are not being taken lightly by many members of the Hindu community.
But issues like these are not just black and white.
Although it is important to hold each other accountable, we must agree that we are all human and all make mistakes, especially in a world where many are eager to embrace and celebrate other cultures and religions.
Many joined this conversation, saying that if a celebrity or anyone else for that matter uses aspects of a culture that they do not belong to, it is not appreciation, but appropriation.
Others said that while it depends on the intention of the portrayal, either way, this instance can be seen as disrespectful.
As a result, many were offended to see Ganesha’s murti hanging inches away from Rihanna’s chest, prompting the use of the hashtag “#endHinduphobia” on a number of posts online.
This incident came just days after Rihanna’s lingerie brand Savage Fenty shared images of model Jhardan Reign posing half-nude outside of a Hindu temple in Wembley, London.
Reign’s Valentine’s Day inspired shoot infuriated many, who stated that Hindu temples are sacred energy spaces where specific guidelines are set in place in order to maintain their sanctity.
Since then, both Savage Fenty and Reign have taken down their photos and Reign has issued an apology.
In an Instagram comment she stated:
“I just wanted to sincerely apologize for offending the Hindu community. Those were not my intentions and I have nothing but respect for your religion and culture, I honor you all for speaking up. The photo has been taken down on all accounts and it won’t be happening again. That is a promise. Again I sincerely apologize.”
It is important to note the accountability taken by Reign and Savage Fenty, who promptly took down all posts that were deemed disrespectful.
In this case, and in many others, Rihanna herself has used her platform countless times to bring attention to issues that minority communities face.
Although we cannot dismiss the feelings of those offended by her recent post, we should instead use these situations as opportunities to grow and learn together, rather than let it incite more division.
At the end of it all, we are fortunate to be living in a society where we can also use our voices and platforms to call out injustices and advocate for change, and also educate one another where information may be lacking.
With all of that being said, where do you stand?
Does Rihanna still deserve backlash over cultural appropriation, or should we accept her mistake?
About the author: Manisha is a freelance writer with experience on both radio and television, who is also the former titleholder of Miss Fiji Canada 2017. She is an artist, poet, and an SFU alumnus with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications. Manisha is the creator of the platform Bula Mental Health which is dedicated to bridging the gap between history, current events, and overall well-being. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha