Bali-based artist and fashion designer who goes by the name, Pinky Gurl utilizes fashion and repurposed materials to recreate Balinese Hinduism deities that are celebrations of dualities in contemporary life. These beings walk the thin line between cuteness and strength, softcore and hardcore, beauty and grotesque. 

Pinky Gurl’s piece, MAHARANCA, which recreates the Goddess Dewi Sri, uplifts the Goddess away from her mythology in which she was murdered since the Gods felt that her beauty, which they fought each other for, was too destructive. In Pinky Gurl’s piece, she has used recycled materials to create a version of Dewi Sri where the Goddess can take up arms and defend herself instead of being killed, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Photograph of Pinky Gurl holding her weaponry piece, CELURIGHT. Image courtesy of @pinkygurl_bali/Instagram.

MAHARANCA was made as a commission for UNLIRICE, a cultural institute which showcases young and emerging talents from Asia. Borrowing the institute’s name which includes the word “rice” a staple food for Asians, Pinky Gurl has chosen to share her idea of what Dewi Sri, the Balinese Goddess of sustenance and prosperity, who has been told to be the creator of rice, would be like.

The piece’s title, MAHARANCA, consists of the words “maha” which is Bahasa Indonesia for “the great one,” meanwhile “ranca” is defined by the Indonesian dictionary as “able to do things easily.” Paired with how Pinky Gurl has given the deity multiple arms, a symbol of power and ability in Hinduism, MAHARANCA yet again underlines Dewi Sri’s power. After all, despite her untimely death, she is single-handedly responsible for the creation of rice, a staple food that has made sure the people of Bali do not go to bed hungry.

MAHARANCA by Pinky Gurl, photographed by Max Kinsky (@max_kinsky). Image courtesy of @pinkygurl_bali/Instagram.

It is said that Dewi Sri had a beauty that was unmatched by anyone. This had caused the Gods to compete with each other for her affection. Even her stepfather, Batara Guru, had fallen for her beauty. Hence, the Gods collectively decided that to maintain peace in heaven, they had no other choice but to kill Dewi Sri. It was foretold that from her dead body, grew rice paddies that have since then nourished people on Earth.

Unlike Dewi Sri’s traditional representations, which often portray a slender young woman, with long hair and figure-hugging dresses, Pinky Gurl’s portrayal of Dewi Sri appears androgynous and stands holding a blade. Gone are the tight dresses, replaced by garments that allow for mobility, including protective armour. Made out of recycled car parts that can be easily identified by the car’s brand, Nissan, emblazoned across her chest. The armour states that she is ready for battle.

MAHARANCA by Pinky Gurl. Image courtesy of @pinkygurl_bali/Instagram.

Pinky Gurl’s Dewi Sri also wields a sword made out of multiple sharp blades, yet another of the artist's creations. This Dewi Sri is empowered within her right and fully capable of deciding her fate. This portrayal subverts the goddess’ story in which she is murdered, it is as if saying that if she were to die, she would have done so fighting her enemies to the bone, exercising her right to live a fulfilling life.

Her androgynous features, seen in the absence of traditionally feminine curves and lustrous long hair often associated with anonymity, serve as further subversion. This Dewi Sri does not wish to follow beauty standards catered to the male gaze, they are more concerned with practicality and comfort.

MAHARANCA by Pinky Gurl, photographed by Max Kinsky (@max_kinsky). Image courtesy of @pinkygurl_bali/Instagram.

Pinky Gurl's reinterpretation of the Balinese Goddess Dewi Sri stands as a powerful symbol of empowerment and defiance against traditional gender norms. Through her innovative use of repurposed materials and fashion design, Pinky Gurl challenges the stereotypical portrayal of female deities. MAHARANCA not only reclaims the narrative of the Goddess but also serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience inherent in non-binary and feminine identities. 

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