Oblivious Rituals

I was inspired by the concept, the Art of Waste, a sustainable centric approach to our ‘environmental issues’. This inspiration coalesced around upcycling, ever since I watched my grandmother repurpose old clothing, that the older kids grow out of, for the younger kids. I was a recipient of many such repurposed outfits. I am also a Hindu, and my religion and culture inspire me. It is for this reason that I decided to speak about the pollution and un-sustainable ritual practices that happens in my community, the Hindu community. Due to our ritualistic practices, we play a part in polluting the oceans and rivers of this world.

In the Hindu religion we perform a ritual which is known as ‘beach prayers’ among South Africans of Indian origin, especially in the city of Durban. These prayers play a huge roll in our religion and this prayer is dedicated to the Goddess Gangai Amman, the female God, which is associated with water. We make offerings at the beach to help heal, guide, and protect us in our everyday lives. A saree is one of the items offered, which is placed in the surf to be carried away by the tides and into the ocean.

But this is the irony in that we are making make an offering to honor the God yet by making this offering we are polluting and desecrating the very element that the God is associated with. Most of these sarees are not biodegradable, and we find them washing up on our beaches all the time. Fisherman have even fished them out in open ocean. In Vedic times these specific prayers were done but with biodegradable fabric which was cotton. With the shifting of time and technological advances most sarees are cheaper and made from synthetic fabric which is harmful to the environment.

Religion and cultural practices are always a touchy subject to broach, but I felt in raising this here, I am creating the necessary awareness in my fellow community members regarding harm that is being done to the environment by our practices. I am also trying to bold type the irony, which is we are honoring the Goddess by our offerings, sarees in this instance, which is polluting the ocean which is a manifestation of the Goddess. In my small way, in my city of Durban, I am trying to educate people on sustainability and sustainable practices.

‘The future is now’, is an apt oxymoron because if we do not address the sustainability is-sues now then we will not have a bright future. In other words, the future is in our hands now.

Details of work

Title: Oblivious Rituals

Year Created: 2021

Artist:  Meressa Ramsamy


October 6, 2021


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