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Rihanna Savage X Fenty’s photo and Ganesha pendant cause backlash in India

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Rihanna faces charges of cultural appropriation and religious insensitivity after she posted a topless image of herself wearing a pendant depicting the Hindu god Ganesha.

The photo, which appeared on her Twitter and Instagram accounts on Tuesday, shows the singer in lavender satin boxers from her lingerie brand Savage X Fenty. Among her matching purple jewelry is a bracelet, a large pair of earrings, and what appears to be a diamond-adorned sculpture of the elephant-headed deity – a move described as “disrespectful” by some Hindus and other social media users in India.

“You are wearing a deity necklace and a Murthi (image of a deity) from my culture which has already been sufficiently culturally appropriate in recent years,” read a response to the post, loved over 5,000 times on Instagram . “How’s it going when a person has more than enough resources to at least find out the meaning and significance of the chains and the pendant around their neck?”

“Can we stop sexualizing people’s religion to gain weight,” another commentary read. “I just don’t understand the point of having a necklace with Lord Ganesh as part of a lingerie campaign.” Another user, meanwhile, wrote: “Our culture is not your costume”.

Not all comments are outraged, with one user stating, “I agree with you wearing this as long as you respect Hinduism.” Others complimented the star’s style without referring to the controversial pendant.

On Rihanna’s Twitter account, the image has amassed more than 40,000 retweets. Savage X Fenty also posted the photo to Instagram, where it racked up over 345,000 likes, with the caption “Stay out of my Instagram, pure temptation”.

Savage X Fenty did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the Ganesha pendant. The boxers brought to the post office are currently listed as “sold out” on the brand’s website.
Ganesha traditionally represents wisdom and success, and is often sought after by Hindus who are embarking on new business ventures. The production of paintings or statues of deities is widely practiced in India, and they are used to help devotees connect with the gods.
The controversy comes just two weeks after Rihanna divided opinions in India in expressing support for farmers protesting against new farm laws in the country. The singer sparked a wave of celebrity statements on the matter after tweeting a link to a CNN article examining how internet access around New Delhi was cut following heavy clashes between police and farmers. “Why aren’t we talking about this ?!” she wrote.

The move angered the Indian government, which issued a statement condemning “sensationalist hashtags and comments on social media, especially when used by celebrities and others.”

A number of commentators have quickly linked Rihanna’s decision to wear a Ganesha pendant to her stance on the protests. Lawmaker Ram Kadam, member of ruling party Bharatiya Janata (BJP), has hinted that she has now discredited her involvement in the affair.

“It’s appalling how @Rihanna shamefully mocks our beloved Hindu god #Ganesha,” he wrote. “It shows how #Rihanna has no idea or respect for culture, tradition and our Indian issues here. Hopefully at least now (the opposition politician) @RahulGandhi and other leaders of the Congress will stop asking him for help.
This is not the first time in recent years that the singer and businesswoman from Barbados has been accused of cultural appropriation. In 2019, she faced backlash online after posing in Chinese clothing and ornaments for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar China. The images were meant to show what happens “when the Western style icon meets Eastern aesthetics,” the publication said at the time.
Savage X Fenty was subsequently criticized by some Muslims, after using a song containing sacred Islamic verses during a lingerie parade last October. The label then apologized, telling CNN at the time, “We really apologize for the song that appeared on the Savage x Fenty show. We shouldn’t have used it. The vocal tracks from the song are being replaced and the show is being edited. “

Top Image: Rihanna pictured at Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 in October 2020.



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