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Selvi by Rathai Manivannan


My project explores induction into womanhood in Tamil culture. It is a direct response to my own experience and the DVD recording of my own coming-of-age ‘function’.


The purpose of the ‘function’ evolved as a result of the advances made in digital photography. It has become centred around spectacle, of performing and demonstrating new-found femininity. But it evolved at a cost of capturing our moments of pause between pose.

I examine the notion of desi femininity being taught in the 21st century, and how it is cited from all branches of South Asian cinema, as well as from a form of classical dance known as Bharatanatyam. I abstract this further by citing my own DVD and function, which ultimately draws more attention to the unease that is experienced. Links are also made through my dad’s original music choice for the DVD, sourced from a film called ‘Mann Vasanai’. The music is taken from a particular scene where the hero falls in love with their heroine when he sees her for the first time as a woman.


My work responds to this confusion both literally of the rituals experienced and symbolically of Tamil womanhood. As a result, I validate the feeling of confusion and cultural displacement that members of the South Asian diaspora experience.


Watch ‘Selvi’ below:


Rathai Manivannan is a photography student based in Sydney who is of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. You can find more of her work on her tumblr.

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