Witty Sita



Finally re-interpreting a gorgeous exchange: the one of Sita convincing Rama she will go with him to forest. It’s taken me 10 years to work up the courage, but now I know how I might: She will reclaim the lightness of wit that almost all goddesses are denied. She will be a funny woman – not drawing laughter at herself, for how can one laugh at Sita? – no, she will be a funny, teasing woman… once again

I was approached to make a drawing of a comedic historical or mythic figure from Indian history. While Indian people share a characteristic humor speak, women often are not depicted as funny or witty. After much searching, my only hope lay in Sita. She, for one, has the distinction of having a script dedicated to her gift for words. All the other goddesses have descriptions but she actually speaks. And she has substantial speech. In my continued study to reinterpret Indian mythological stories, I wondered, would Sita make a funny woman? Certainly intelligent and articulate, as witnessed in her speech to Rama about why she must accompany him to forest during his banishment. In this version, I’m playing with several ideas (begs a series of drawings to properly convey the reinterpretation)

1. When women are depicted as being funny, it is done often at their own physical expense – witty women, while begrudgingly acknowledged with minor local celebrity, are not canonized in iconography. Today comedians are canonized – particularly the stand up comedian. The image of the standup comedian at the mic is iconic and recognizable. In this acrylic sketch I attempt to evoke that body language with my Sita holding Ram’s garland like a mic. In order to evoke the many popular retellings of the Ramayana as a metaphor for reincarnation, my Sita playfully teases, “C’mon Ram, in what version of the Ramayana was I not able to convince you I am accompanying you into the forest?”

2. Representing Sita: as the comedienne, Sita is front facing. I made her face after the recently passed dancer, Zohra Seghal, who was famed for her funny laughing faces. Sita is the daughter of the Earth Goddess, so I made her earthy and hardy-looking. Both Ram and Sita are of the moon, so I depicted their exchange under a full moon, a time when intentions are subconsciously pulled out. As playful as my Sita is being, what she has to say to Ram is quite serious: in the Ramayana, Sita endures. In my interpretation, she bears with him because her faith in their love is stronger than his faith in her. The painful truth of this is revealed in the darkest recesses of the text, bared starkly when moments of moonlight draw them together.

3. Ram is an avatar of Vishnu. He was Krishna. Krishna was the merrymaker in the union with Radha. Ram is quite serious. If twin love is reincarnated, then Sita must have been the funny one in the incarnation with Ram. In current texts both of them are so serious, they sink. A reinterpretation of their interaction to reflect a witty funny Sita would add much-needed buoyancy to a story that takes itself too seriously.

Witty Sita is an acrylic sketch on a 14″x11″ canvas board

Next Steps: I’m reworking the passage, where Sita attempts to convince a stubborn Ram that she belongs with him in his banishment to forest.