Hindus have urged Washington Concert Opera (WCO) in Washington DC to withdraw “Lakmé” opera; scheduled for May 22, 2022; which they feel seriously trivializes Hindu religious and other traditions.
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that this deeply problematic opera was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes. He also urged WCO to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.
WCO, whose mission is “to provide a secure home for rarely performed operatic masterpieces...", should have shown some maturity before selecting an opera like Lakmé (Lakshmi), displaying Western caricaturing of Eastern heritage and abetting ethnic stereotyping, Rajan Zed noted.
It was highly irresponsible for an establishment like WCO to choose such a ballet which had been blamed for caricaturing, appearance of mocking of “other” cultures, colonial terminology, degrading and offensive elements, dehumanizing portrayal, Essentialism, narratives often failing to represent “other” cultures with dignity and humanity, imperialistic outlook, justifying ideas of superiority, looking down on people and customs, misrepresentation, considerably wrong about the culture it was supposed to be portraying, needless appropriation of cultural motifs, patronizing flawed mishmash of centuries-old orientalist stereotypes, pseudo and unabashed orientalism, reimagining Hindu traditions-practices-deities, shallow exoticism based on prejudice, etc. WCO could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.
Rajan Zed suggested WCO Board President Melissa Rhea, Artistic Director Antony Walker, and Executive Director Tehvon D. Fowler-Chapman to re-evaluate WCO systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.