Rihanna, who faced backlash for commenting on the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, is in the eye of the storm again after she posted a topless photo of herself with a Ganesha necklace on social media on Tuesday.
The American pop-star was accused of cultural appropriation, the usage of certain symbols belonging to particular cultures by the dominant sections, by netizens, especially by the Indian audience who found the post that endorsed her lingerie brand collaboration Savage X Fenty, “offensive” and “insulting”.
The photo got 9.7 million likes on Instagram and got 2,31,000 likes on Twitter, with around 44,000 retweets.
The comment section stands polarised with one section calling out on her and the other passing it as casual.
“Super offensive wearing Ganesha like that. My first god, a holy sentiment to millions of people celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi every year. Sorry RiRi, you disappointed me and others,” read one reply to her tweet. Meanwhile, another social media user’s reply read: “Continuation.. whatever she did is just to wear a god as a pendant. Let’s just be welcoming in our religion. Our temples have sex sculptures right on gopura’s lets not forget that. Lets respect her body and her beliefs. Please be reasonable.”
The Indian Express reported that the singer has posed with the necklace of the deity in several occasions in the past.
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On February 2, Rihanna posted about the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, becoming the first international icon to do so. This resulted in highlighting the current scenario, including the internet shutdown in parts of New Delhi following the violent farmers’ clash with the police on Republic Day. International voices, including teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, former adult-actor Mia Khalifa, YouTuber Amanda Cerny, US House Representative Jim Costa, and Meena Harris, also tweeted in support of the farmers’ protest.
Solidarity to the Indian Farmers.
Thank you Rihanna.
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) February 2, 2021
The Union Home Ministry released a statement urging social media users to refrain from sensationalising issues by using hashtags and comments in matters of serious nature.
This is not the first time that international celebrities have been called out for promoting cultural appropriation.
In 2013, American pop-singer Selena Gomez was attacked for wearing a bindi while performing at the MTV Awards. Calling it offensive, Rajan Zed, the leader of a Hindu organisation reportedly said, “The bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance,” and emphasised that the actor-cum-singer apologise, according to the Daily Mail UK
In 2016, American band Coldplay’s music video, Hymn for the Weekend, had stirred controversy as soon as it had released. The video, which featured Hindi actor Sonam Kapoor Ahuja in a split second, was criticised for featuring pop star Beyonce as a Hindi actor who was and for depicting India as a land of elephants, poverty, and snake charmers.