Performance | 'White King, Brown Queen', Radha La Bia

Performance | 'White King, Brown Queen', Radha La Bia
 | Thursday 27 July, from 6pm (to coincide with the opening of THE PUBLIC BODY .02)
Location | Artspace

Radha La Bia (Shahmen Suku), Real Housewives of Newtown, 2015 – 2016. Courtesy and copyright the artist. Photo: Josh Bentley


In Indian culture, particularly in Hindu homes, turmeric is not only used in cooking but also in cleansing rituals as part of weddings, childbirth and funerals. Washing one’s feet in turmeric water is commonly done after visiting cemeteries, as it is supposed to ward off evil spirits.


Turmeric is sometimes used as a face mask, and is said to reduce facial hair growth. It is also believed to lighten the skin. Fair skin is highly valued in Indian culture and across Asia, as it is linked to higher social status, which also reflects the impact of hierarchies from European colonial rule. Skin-whitening creams for both women and men are a multi-million-dollar industry in India, heavily promoted by movie stars and cricket players.


Radha La Bia’s installation and performance draws upon his childhood, when he was first made aware of the colour of his skin at school. He made several attempts of bathing in bleach in the hope of becoming fairer and ‘cleaner’. In his performance, Radha will grind turmeric into a paste using anammi kal — a traditional South Indian grinding stone — to make a turmeric bath. He will then bathe himself while telling stories.