I posted a different photograph of Colleen (above) on Instagram this week. Again she was bathed in Turmeric and she was norturing her newborn baby in a re-enactment of the traditional first-born ritual on Palau in Micronesia.
It received one of the highest numbers of followers of any image I have posted.
Yet, in that photograph, I had to ensure her nipples were not exposed because of Instagram’s ridiculous “show no nipples” policy which sees your account suspended or closed down if a woman’s nipples are discernible in the photograph.
It’s a draconian policy, with many photographers feeling compelled to cover a woman’s nipples with a dot or to blur them in order to post their photos.
Clearly, this photo never would have made the cut.
As I wrote on my Instagram post though, this particular photo – which I wasn’t prepared to vandalize to post on the social media platform – is special to me as, apart from its aesthetic appeal and its strong cultural message, it would never have been captured or seen unless Colleen’s aunty intervened and requested Colleen pose traditionally with bare breasts exposed as this represented what the first-born ritual was all about – a proud demonstration of a woman’s feminine energy and her nurturing prowess.
So, Colleen, who was well educated and frequently attended church, kindly acquiesced to her Aunty’s wishes and prepared – dressing in her traditional grass skirt, covering her body with turmeric and oil, painting her lips red and tying her hair up to accentuate the feminine curves of her body. Important to the photo was her pose – the leaf in her hand symbolizing cleansing and renewal, and her folded arm lifted beneath her breasts to make them look full and abundant to reflect the Mother energy.
In the first born ritual, mother and child are hidden from view and prepared thus, then they emerge from the birthing shelter in celebration to be seen like this for the first time.
So you can imagine my delight – and the sense of privilege – I felt to be photographing this – particularly when, nowadays, such authenticity in traditional rituals is rare.
And, here’s my point (apart from sharing this photo): I get that Instagram doesn’t want to be flooded with photos of naked women but I can’t see why there can’t be a mechanism in place (even a copy of the pic and an explanation sent in beforehand) to win permission to post photographs like this which have such a rich cultural value.
After all, traditional culture is disappearing rapidly enough without social media – a modern platform that supposedly promotes diversity and cultural awareness – adding to the erosion.
Don’t you think?