Elrow, an event run by The Warehouse Project to be held at the Albert Hall in Manchester, has caused controversy after using an offensive image of a Hindu god, Shiva, to promote their Bollywood-themed night.
Creators of the poster have been accused of cultural appropriation. The Warehouse Project have since issued an apology to “anyone who has taken offence at the artwork,” and changed the image.
Hiten Mistry, a previous National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) President at King’s College London, spoke to The Mancunion and stated: “Elrow, The Warehouse Project and The Albert Hall publicised an event ‘Elrow Bollywood’ with a picture of Shiva, a primary deity, with a party mask and a cigarette. This depiction desecrates Shiva and is disrespectful to many, both Hindu and non-Hindu. People feel insulted by the lack of cultural sensitivity shown by the stakeholders of this event. It was good to see both Hindus and non-Hindus uniting against this depiction. Business within all industries need to demonstrate greater cultural awareness and sensitivity. This event has damaged the brand of WHP, Elrow, and The Albert Hall.”
Henry Murray commented on the Facebook post: “You should be f****** ashamed of yourselves with that poster. Abhorrent appropriation.”
Shree Thakker, NHSF Manchester’s President last year, claims she was “absolutely appalled and disgusted” by the image. She explained: “For one, I would have believed the people who work for a company such as Elrow to have been smart enough to realise Bollywood and Hinduism are two entirely separate things. I am completely shocked that such a poster was successfully approved of and how no one within the company thought this would be offensive to Hindus everywhere [sic]. To see a cherished, respected God such as Lord Shiva with a ‘party hat’ on, smoking a cigarette and holding alcohol is simply unacceptable — our religion does not promote such use of intoxicants, and it is HIGHLY disrespectful and disgusting to see this being shown. This is simply encouraging people who are attending to dress up as one of our deities! It is NOT acceptable!”
Shree added: “As previous President, I can guarantee that as a society we do all we can to encourage inter-faith and respect for other religions, and all we ask for is the same treatment back — regardless of whether you are religious or not. It is simply respecting another person’s beliefs — human to human. As young Hindus influencing the next generation, if we see disrespectful comments being made against our religion, we must stand up for it, for ‘if not us, then who?’”
Rupa Ghelani, a student at the University of Manchester, apparently had her comments on the Facebook page deleted. She said: “They [WHP] took the poster down and apologised, respect to that, but the way they are trying to bury it, deleting my comments — this is so wrong. Where is the freedom of speech, people have a right to say what they want about this, they were careless enough to create that artwork and post it and must deal with the consequence.”
Loren Hirst, who often attends Warehouse Project events, said: “I don’t follow any religion in particular but the way I see it, it shows a lack of understanding of different religions and cultures that they even associated an entire religion with Bollywood. People just need to be a bit more inclusive and understanding.”
However, the same view was not shared by everyone, such as Bec Rowntree: “I feel everyone gets offended by everything nowadays and not offended by important world issues, such as crime, global warming, [and] war.”
An anonymous student told The Mancunion that he thinks “all Hindus are overreacting too much and taking it to heart when it was just a joking promo pic,” suggesting offended students should “calm down and move on”.