By Waikhom Chitradhani
Imphal(Manipur), June 17 : An alteration of a traditional wear of a community from Manipur has kicked off a storm as outraged netizens demanded the photographs of it on social media platforms be taken off. They also demanded that the person who “designed” it should apologise.
Taking a strong exception of the episode, Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM), a student body based in Manipur, accused the ‘self proclaimed designer’, Priyanka Anna Joseph of culturally misrepresenting and interpreting in social media by disregarding the cultural significance of the Meitei’s ‘Phanek Mayeknaiba’.
In a statement on Wednesday, DESAM condemned Priyanka’s action and stated that the student body treat it as a ‘threat and disrespect to our cultural rights and tradition”.
“She has also hurt the sentiments of the Meetei community as we regard the Phanek in an auspicious way. Meeteis wear the Mayek naiba Phanek only in cultural or formal functions to identify ourselves and not so casually and sometimes politically as a resistance. She thus converted the Phanek which has a cultural, social and political value into something proves that she doesn’t regard and respect our culture but has represented in a way the community never wants to be represented,” the statement added.
Stating that DESAM appreciated modernization taken by different designers of the community, the student body said that it has always supported them but “we don’t support misinterpretation”.
The statement further stated that the Meitei always regard the Phaneks as a distinctive sacred thing where there is a belief that a piece of torn Phanek is said to protect their sons and daughters. The communities of Meitei and Meitei Pangal also stand proud of the Phanek Mayeknaiba as our cultural heritage.
DESAM asserted that the act of Priyanka Anna Joseph is not acceptable to the community who has always had a distinctive dress code.
“She has used the Phanek Mayeknaiba to mock and disrespect our culture which is a crime and she should apologise publicly,” the student body demanded and urged the Manipur Government to take necessary action.
“Professionalism, modernisation, and human rights are complementary to one another and they go hand in hand but it should not jeopardize the core cultural values or tradition. And so dress and costumes of ethnic communities should always be looked on carefully before doing something or else that triggers into hurting the cultural sentiments. So we should always keep in mind to balance ethics, professionalism, and human rights with cultural rights”.
Maintaining that the student body does not want anyone to mock the culture by misrepresenting it, DESAM appealed and warned everyone not to misinterpret their culture in the coming future, and also request everyone not to hurt the cultural sentiments of other ethnic communities too.
Meanwhile, Priyanka has responded to the outrage on her Instagram account where the pictures of her “design” were shared.
“There is no need for abuse here. I am not even an indian. So I am not trying to degrade anyone. I was appreciating the different cultures,” she said and added that “Cultural appropriation and all are half baked western ideas which are not even in vogue in the west. If cultural appropriation is to be practised in its purity…we would all be walking around draping leaves”.