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  • Manju Sadarangani


Updated: Jun 14, 2021



The Divine Feminine Series

12 x 12

Acrylic & Gold Leaf on Canvas

(March, 2021)

Continuing with my focus on the Divine Feminine, I give you Antar.

Antar (un.ter) is difference, disparity, distance. The impetus for the Divine Feminine Series was a desire to rebuff the preponderance of female divine iconography. I wanted to push back on female divinity as loving-giving-wish-granting-indulgent-mother, or hot-but-submissive consort, or angry avenging trope. The more I fought for a representation of female wisdom, of meditative, enlightened divinity, the more I began stumbling with access, the role of opportunity.

I am starting to think of a spiritual practice as a luxury. Much like self-care, it requires agency, it requires access. You fight to make space for a spiritual practice. Making that space requires a foundation – freedom from starvation, from physical pain, from responsibility, in addition to a roof over one’s head, and time. So much time.

While meditating, I found myself thinking of a statesman I worked with in my professional career. He was known for his acumen, his political savvy, and as a stickler for his religious practice. When he prayed (and he prayed several times a day, rain or shine) the world around him came to a grinding halt. He locked himself in an inner sanctuary, to look within. Meetings were organized around prayer, legislative debates were held up, it was remarkable. Not only was this a symbol of his devotion, it was also a symbol of power, of privilege. He had a swarm of gatekeepers allowing him the time and space to be spiritual. Every foreign diplomat waiting in the foyer for his attention read the invisible neon billboard - we need him more than he needs us.

Last week, I began my training to become a Kundalini yoga teacher. The time this requires of me impacts everyone and everything around me – while I was training, my entire world had to bend and flex to give me the space and time. Even the decision to train was one needing so much negotiation with my world – save money for the training, take time off work, find childcare, arrange for meals, make sure everyone was safe and sound while I threw myself into my training. It is not something I could even have fathomed without a roof over my head, without support, without the luxury of handing over my responsibilities to someone else. No wonder the great sages and thinkers tend to be elite men. They can afford a spiritual practice.

I wanted to limit my use of resources to highlight disparity, the texture of lived experience. This piece is made up of a cardinal four - gold, black, pink, and orange. Pink and orange make me very uncomfortable, black is where I am safe, gold is where I have the luxury of play. Despite the color limitations I placed on myself, I fought for texture. It is gloss and matte, iridescent and opaque, black 3.0 and gold leaf. Same same, but worlds apart. I could go on and on about the captured moksha of the contained birds, the hint of freedom, the nod to our gilded cages.

In the end, when I meditate on this piece, I go back to the why of a spiritual practice. The reason I meditate and have a yoga practice is so that I am a better warrior for equity in my community, so that I build resilience to confront the storms. At least that is what I tell myself. I need a justification to explain my selfishness. As I put this piece out into the world, I wonder, does everyone else?

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