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Western galleries, palaces, churches and government buildings display paintings and sculptures from European masters going back several hundred years to modern time.  What strikes me is the casual nudity that is displayed in classical western art.  Cherubs, angles, saints, heroes, villains, mythical creatures, Christ and a whole host of others are depicted as naked as the artists dared.  Even church alters, shrines and  stain-glass windows are teaming with nude figures outlined in gold.  Nudity in western art is seen as ‘classical’, ‘realism’, ‘modernism’. 

How come this same level of understanding is not given to nudes in art from other cultures ?

During the colonial period when Europeans went invading other cultures, nudity in their art was seen as ‘savagery’ while nudity in European art was seen as 'sophistication'. In secular and sacred art of the west, nudity, even full frontal nudity, was seen as high art and displayed in churches with great reverence. Yet, naked or clothed figures created by non-Christians in colonial lands were seen as ‘heathen idols’ and smashed with religious zeal.  Naked or even topless statues in India, Africa or Americas were seen as ‘pagan’, an ‘abomination against god’ and destroyed with great haste. 

Even now, Catholics kneel in front of statues of saints, Mary and Christ and consider that to be their religious duty.  Yet, if Hindus worship statues of their Gods, they are considered to be heathen !

What hurts most is when this hypocrisy is taught in school during art, religion and history lessons. 


© Bhagwat Shahah   
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